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Number of Asylum Seekers to EU Not Alarming, Georgian Envoy Says

By Tea Mariamidze
Wednesday, January 24
(TBILISI)--Georgian representative to the European Union (EU), Natalia Sabanadze, says that the number of Georgian asylum seekers to the EU states has increased, but the figure is not so high to cause the concern of the EU.

Sabanadze made the statement in response to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Brussels reporter, Rikard Jozwaik, who tweeted that the EU member states are worried about asylum seekers from Georgia.

“The EU aren’t happy with Ukraine’s draft law on establishing an anti-corruption court but there is no real threat to suspend visa lib. EU member states are actually more worried about asylum seekers from Georgia. The suspension mechanism will be debated by diplomats on Tue”, Jozwaik’s tweet reads.

Georgian envoy said that the diplomats from the EU member states discussed the first report on the suspension mechanism on Tuesday, which was issued on December 20, 2017.

Sabanadze says the report does not say anything extraordinary about Georgia.

“Generally, Georgia should continue to fulfill its obligations and this is a fact. It is very important for our citizens not to violate the rules of visa regime, not to stay in the EU for more than 3 months,” she added.

The envoy says only very few applications of asylum seekers will be approved by the EU countries, because many states have included Georgia into the list of safe countries.

“The report, which covers the period from the second half of 2016 to the mid-2017, says that illegal staying or entry into European countries by the Georgian citizens are stable,” she said.

Sabanadze stated that in the same period 4750 Georgians applied for asylum in EU. In 2015 this number was higher – 8110, and in 2016 - 8700.

The visa-free regime for Georgia was activated on March 28, 2017.

Georgians holding biometric passports are now able to enter the Schengen Area for 90 days within any 180-day period for vacation, business, or any other purpose except work.

Georgians can travel without visas to the 22 EU member states, also to four non-EU-member states (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) as well as four Schengen candidate countries (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania and Croatia).

Exceptions for visa-free travel include Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Georgians will lose the freedom to travel visa-free if they suddenly start making numerous asylum requests, stay in the Schengen Zone for more than 90 days at a time or cause an increase in risks and internal security.

If such problems emerge, the suspension of visa-free regime can be extended up to 18 months, followed by the intervention of the European Parliament.