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A project on supporting returning Georgian migrants launched

By Mzia Kupunia
Friday, March 18
An opening conference of the Targeted Initiative for Georgia: Support Reintegration of Georgian Returning Migrants and the Implementation of the EU-Georgia Readmission Agreement was held on March 17 at Radission Iveria Blu Hotel. The participants of the conference included the Head of the Delegation of the European Union in Georgia, Philip Dimitrov, Georgian Minister of Refugees Koba Subeliani and the Ambassador of Czech Republic to Georgia Ivan Jestrab.

Ambassador Ivan Jestrab outlined the main aims of the Targeted Initiative for Georgia, naming among them strengthening migration management by increasing the capacities of competent authorities in Georgia, supporting dignified sustainable return and reintegration and addressing challenges posed by irregular migration. According to the ambassador, the project includes three main components.

“The project focuses on three areas. These are capacity building: legal and policy development of the Georgian migration system, the establishment of two new job counseling and placement centers, development of a reintegration manual, exchange of best practices,” Jestrab stated, naming reorientation of Georgian returning migrants to vocational training, job counseling, business start-up, medical care, temporary accommodation as the second focus area. “The third area is an information campaign on legal migration opportunities with a special focus on labour migration schemes and on the risks of illegal migration,” the ambassador said.

Head of the EU Delegation to Georgia, Philip Dimitrov noted that the visa facilitation agreement and an agreement on readmission are “two sides of one coin”. “It is important to have both of them because without them you are standing at the closed door of Europe, if you sign the agreements then the door is open for you,” Dimitrov noted, adding that the agreement on readmission will not make “dramatic” changes in the lives of the Georgian citizens. “The people who don’t fit the legal requirements will have to come back,” he noted.

Georgian Minister of Refugees, Koba Subeliani evaluated the project as “very important” for Georgia. “We have set up a special mobility center which will assist the Georgian citizens who have returned. We will provide those who do not have a shelter with temporary shelters,” he noted “90 citizens will receive USD 3000 grants to start small size businesses. All of these activities are aimed at helping the people who return to Georgia in order to integrate them in the most effective manner possible in a short period of time,” Subeliani added. He said there are no comprehensive statistics on how many Georgian citizens are living abroad illegally, saying that the numbers are constantly changing.

The EU-Georgia simplified Visa Facilitation and Readmission agreements came in to force on March 1. The agreements were ratified at the European Parliament on December 14, 2010. The visa facilitation agreement sets out simplified procedures for Georgians to obtain short-term visas to EU countries along with a reduced visa fee of Euro 35 instead of the previous Euro 60 charge. In addition some categories of applicants including children below 12, pensioners, disabled people, students, close relatives and representatives of civil society organisations will be exempt from the visa fee.

The readmission agreement sets out the obligations and procedures for the Georgian authorities as to when and how to take back people who are illegally residing in the EU. The agreement covers not only those residing illegally but also third country nationals and stateless persons in an irregular situation provided they have a clear link with the requested party. EU officials in Georgia have called the two agreements the “milestones” in the development of Georgia-EU relations.