Enhanced control in Gali and Sokhumi

"Passportization" of those who did not renounce their Georgian citizenship remains a challenge in Gali. At the beginning of 2023, the 5-year period of the validity of temporary movement documents of the majority of residents of Gali has expired. Part of the population submitted the necessary documents at the end of 2022. The local security service requires the proof of permanent presence in the territory of Abkhazia for the past 5 years in exchange for the movement document. This requirement is especially problematic for students and locals employed in the Tbilisi-controlled territory. On March 1, 2023, this part of the population was summoned to the law enforcement agency, where they were informed that they would receive a movement document only after being checked for espionage in favour of Tbilisi. The creation of artificial obstacles in obtaining documents necessary for movement is a gross interference with freedom of movement and results in limited access to education, employment and other basic needs of the ethnically Georgian population of Gali.

At the end of March, ethnic Georgian teachers employed in Gali public schools were accused of spreading anti-Abkhazian propaganda and ideology and were reprimanded for the fact that their children study in Georgian higher education institutions and for their frequent visits to Zugdidi. As of the summer of 2022, out of 350 school graduates living in Gali, 5 were admitted to higher education institutions in Sokhumi, 20 - in Moscow, and the rest - in the territory controlled by Tbilisi. Taking into account the stable statistics on those wishing to receive higher education in Georgia, on March 16-17, 2023, the local de facto government of Gali held a meeting with school graduates at the house of culture. The purpose of the meeting was to persuade young people from Gali to get education in Russia, in exchange for which they were promised to enjoy privileges. Young people were offered to participate in the "Road to the Top" Olympiad, which will enable them to be admitted to the desirable faculty of the Russian higher education institutions without any exams, in case of taking the prize places in the Olympiad. The school graduates were also promised to be provided free dormitory.

According to the Democracy Research Institute, the increased control does not only apply to the residents of Gali. Ethnically Abkhaz people, who travel abroad for any reason, are also sometimes summoned by the de facto security service for questioning.