The Georgian organization Demographic Revival Foundation has released a report that estimates that since 1990, approximately 200,000 children have been born into Georgian emigrant families, as reported by Commersant.ge.
The figure is based on demographers’ calculations: official figures are not particularly reliable, as they do not account for the significant numbers of undocumented Georgian emigrants living in Europe and North America.
Tamar Chubinidze, head of the Demographic Revival Foundation, explains that most children born abroad to Georgian citizens will not return to their family’s historic homeland, instead building a life in the country of their birth.
"This is a serious loss for Georgia,” says Chubinidze, “The children of Georgians who were born abroad, show interest in their historical homeland, but as guests only. We can only hope that as the borders are opened, the attractiveness of Georgia will grow, and at least some of them will come to live here.”
Similar patterns are seen in many countries, including in other former Soviet states. The case of the Armenian diaspora is particularly notable. The global Armenian community numbers approximately 10 million, while the domestic population is under 3 million. The website of the President of Armenia writes that “there are Armenian communities in more than 100 countries all over the world” and that “Armenians of the Diaspora are mainly involved with issues concerning preservation of the national identity; they establish schools, churches, cultural homes and pan-Armenian organizations.” The Armenian Diaspora Ministry was established in 2008.
An Office of the State Minister of Georgia for Diaspora Issues was also established in 2008, but it was dissolved and its duties absorbed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in late 2016, although the website is still active, if outdated.
Chubinidze warns that Georgia’s visa-free regime with the European Union, established in March 2017, has a significant downside. She claims that the number of emigrants from Georgia to Europe is four times higher than before the regime came into effect.
In the final quarter of 2017, more Georgians citizens applied for asylum in Europe than from any other former Soviet state. The European Asylum Support Office reported that the number of Georgian asylum seekers increased 39% year-on-year to reach 10,465. Eurostat reported that 4,970 Georgians requested asylum in the European Union in the first quarter of 2018.
In the midst of Europe’s migration crisis, the increase was seen quite unfavorably. In February, German Foreign Minister Thomas de Maizière warned the Georgian government that if the flow of asylum seekers continued at that pace, they would be forced to consider reinstating visa requirements. At that time, Dorota Dlouchy-Suliga of the EU Delegation in Tbilisi was not worried, telling EurasiaNet, “In the past, we have had a similar experience with the Balkan countries. There was a bump at first…we hope that the number of applications from Georgia will go down.”
The predication was realized, as 2018 has seen decreasing numbers of asylum seekers each month. Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees reports that in January 2018, there were 745 asylum applications filed by Georgians in Germany, while in February there were only 595, March 490, April 350 and in May just 221.
Nine countries in the European Union have granted Georgia the status of ‘safe country’ from which no asylum applications are accepted. These countries are Ireland, Luxemburg, Belgium, Netherlands, France, Bulgaria, Lichtenstein, Austria and Iceland.
By Samantha Guthrie