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80% of Georgian tourists stay illegally in Israel

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, March 16
The Israeli Ambassador to Georgia, Shabtai Tsur, explained the possible reasons of refusal for some of Georgian citizens at the border and said the Israeli government was very concerned when they found out that about 80 percent of Georgians entering Israel as tourists stayed as illegal migrants in the country.

“We received more than 13,000 tourists from Georgia last year. Their number is increasing from year to year. When we compared the numbers with statistics of the last year, we were a bit concerned, as 80 percent of those Georgians arriving in Israeli as tourists stayed there as illegal migrants,” the ambassador told the Kviris Palitra newspaper.

However, the ambassador dismissed the possibility of the cancelation of the Georgia-Israeli visa free travel.

With regards to alleged incidents of Georgian citizens being insulted at the border by Israeli border guards, the ambassadors said some violations may really have taken place and stressed the foreign ministries of Georgia and Israeli would settle such issues.

Tsur excluded the temporary annulment of the Georgia-Israel visa-free travel at the end of the last month as was proposed by the President of the Georgia-Israel Business Chamber, Itsik Moshe, in the wake of Georgian citizens’ complaints about abuse by Israeli border guards.

“Georgia and Israel signed a deal on visa-free travel in 2014, and diplomatic and other relations between the nations are improving. As for the statements about the situation at the border, both nations are involved in solving the issue and I believe the case will be soon over,” Tsur stated.

Earlier in February, several citizens of Georgia held a press conference wherein they stated they were treated badly by Israeli border guards.

They spoke in detail how they were verbally and physically abused by the border guards solely because they were Georgians.

After the statements, Moshe offered a temporary, 100-day cancellation of visa-free travel for both countries and to create a special group that would study the issue.

Moshe also said there is a clear distinction between those who go to Israel as tourist and those seeking jobs there.