We, the signatory organizations, reiterate the information disseminated in the media and social networks, showing the allegedly discriminatory experience of special and stricter checks of North Caucasians on the Larsi border checkpoint by Georgian law enforcement agencies, and call on the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia and the State Security Service of Georgia to create an equal and dignified environment for border checks for the people living in these regions. for people. In light of the military mobilization commenced in Russia, supporting the societies colonized by Russia and having experienced historical conflict with the country constituted the historical role and mission of Georgia in the Caucasus, and we believe it is of paramount importance to take the right political and symbolic steps in these fractious times for amicable and solidary people-to-people relations in our region.
For Russian citizens, it is simple to cross the border of Georgia and it usually takes place without special checks and long waits. Number of studies show that the rate of entry refusals vis-à-vis Russian citizens is very low. Nonetheless, a number of respondents report to the media and to our organizations that it is the people living in the North Caucasus (or those who resemble them physically based on various physical, religious and cultural attributes) who go through a difficult and lengthy process of checks for hours on end in a room (#222), specially designated for them, and, at times, they are even subjected to protracted, several-day inquiries. It is clear that, against this background, the implementation of a special and stricter rules for checking the North Caucasians at the border raises assumptions of discriminatory treatment.
Regrettably, the actors working on human rights do not have access to the so-called Neutral zones at the border, where people, including women and children, are waiting or facing the decision of refusal. This deprives us of the possibility of detailed analysis of the situation and determination of the scale of the problem. Moreover, we do not have access to the statistical data regarding the refusals to cross the border for people living in the regions of the North Caucasus, which, as the Ministry of Internal Affairs explains, is not officially collected. Despite this, our respondents feel that refusal decisions against them are more frequent than in the case of other Russian citizens, and according to them, almost every fifth person is refused entry.
We distinctly recognize the importance of state control in the process of border-crossing in the interests of the country's national security. It is also clear that, in this regard, the state exercises a wide discretion in this process and the justification of the decisions may, at times, be based on secret information. Nevertheless, it is important that this process is carried out without arbitrariness and discriminatory treatment and that there is effective and timely judicial control over it.
Regrettably, the legislation regulating the border crossing, especially the subsection "i" of Article 11 of the Law of Georgia "On the Legal Status of Foreigners and Stateless Persons", which stipulates “other grounds provided for by the law” as the basis for refusing entry to a foreigner, the norm which constitutes the most frequently used grounds for justifying the refusal decisions, does not meet even the basic requirements of foreseeability and clarity and, is, in fact, unconstitutional. As the judicial and administrative practice related to this norm shows, while applying the above-mentioned article, the law enforcement authorities rely on the official lists compiled by them, where a person’s name is inserted without proper standards and procedures in place. In many cases, this norm constitutes the basis for the refusal of entry to Georgia for North Caucasians. In this process, it is also unfortunate that judicial control over such decisions is formalistic in nature, and even the lawyer of the victim of rights violation does not have access to that information.
We, the signatory organizations, believe that security policies towards the North Caucasians are often based on prejudices and discriminatory stereotypes, which are largely the result of years of imperial and repressive policies and discourses carried out by Russia in the region. It is unfortunate that the Georgian government, as well as the security and law enforcement agencies, which should understand the historical resistance of the North Caucasus region to Russian imperial policy and especially the political, cultural and ethical dilemmas of engaging in hostilities in Ukraine, in the context of military mobilization, do not adopt more flexible and supportive approaches towards them today.
After the brutal war started by Russia in Ukraine, Georgia has seen a massive influx of Russian citizens. In the context of the war in Ukraine, the most massive waves of migration were related, in the first stage, to the imposition of economic sanctions on Russia in February 2022, and, in the second stage, to the military mobilization announced in Russia on September 21, 2022. At the moment, it is difficult to determine the exact number of Russian citizens in Georgia, although according to the data collected by Transparency International: in the period of January-June 2022, the number of visitors from Russia reached 247 thousand. In March, April, May and June of this year, around 6,400 Russian companies were registered in Georgia, which is 7 times more than the annual rate of 2021. According to the information published by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, at least 27,000 Russian citizens entered Georgia in the last 10 days. It is clear that this process, along with possible security risks, concurs with social and economic changes and influences, which, among other things, were reflected in the radical increase in the prices of real estate, rent, as well as food products and other services in our country; Also leads to overcrowded social infrastructure, which, in the absence of preventive and compensatory measures from the state, is a heavy enough economic burden for our population.
Regrettably, the government has not created working and political formats in relation to the growing migration processes, where we would receive convincing and justified answers to the questions accumulated in the society regarding the scale of migration; the social profile of the incoming migrants; the physical, economic and social security measures taken by the state; and the management and handling of migration.
Building solidarity, support and cooperation between the peoples of the Caucasus was a historical mission of Georgia in the Caucasus region, and in the most difficult moments our country remained a solidary host to peoples facing the experience of persecution. This is also evidenced in experience of receiving Chechen refugees during the Russian-Chechen war.
In view of the above, we call on:
The Ministry of Internal Affairs and State Security Service
The Government of Georgia
The Parliament of Georgia