Interview with Head of Migration Department Mr. Zaza Pantsulaia
ENIGMMA: The Migration Department (MD) is a newly established structural unit within the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia which implements specific provisions of the ‘Law of Georgia on Legal Status of Aliens and Stateless Persons’ related to the fight against and prevention of irregular migration in Georgia. What is the current situation in this field?
Mr Zaza Pantsulaia: As you are already aware, migration management has become one of the key priority issues for Europe and the entire world, and Georgia is no exception in this regard. In recent years, our country has taken important steps and significant progress has been achieved at both the legislative and institutional levels. Namely, the adoption of the ‘Law of Georgia on Legal Status of Aliens and Stateless Persons’ and establishment of effective mechanisms has positively reflected on the country’s migration management system. In order to ensure effective implementation of the provisions of the abovementioned law, a number of sub-laws and regulations has been elaborated and adopted:
Decree #525 of the Government of Georgia on Approval of the Procedure for Removing Aliens from Georgia was signed and entered into force on 1 September 2014.
Order #631 of the Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia on Approval of the Procedure for Detaining and Accommodating Aliens in the Temporary Accommodation Centres was signed and entered into force on 1 September 2014. The order clearly defines cases when the alien can be detained and/or transferred to the Temporary Accommodation Centre (TAC), rules for detention, procedural rights of the alien, accommodation at the TAC, including personal inspection, medical inspection and rights, and guarantees to the alien.
Our Department attaches great importance to inter-agency cooperation in this regard. We actively cooperate with the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia. Besides the existing cooperation, the Migration Department is still keeping up its efforts to enhance cooperation with other relevant agencies to improve the effectiveness of its activities. In order to further effective inter-agency cooperation, the Ministry of Internal Affairs signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Corrections and the Ministry of IDPs from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia. Memorandums with the Ministry of Education and Science and the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs will be signed in the near future. Attaching priority to voluntary return programmes over the implementation of forced return, the Ministry of Internal Affairs signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which actively cooperates with the Migration Department in the process of voluntary return. From July 2015 the Migration Department started effective implementation of expulsion procedures. As of February 2016, 77 expulsion decisions have been issued.
ENIGMMA: The Migration Department coordinates the activities in the field of combating irregular migration and conducts the removal procedures, while the Patrol Police performs inland detection of irregular migrants; in addition, the Criminal Police is responsible for the fight against irregular migration. How is cooperation between the relevant agencies coordinated? What means are used to make it operational?
Mr Zaza Pantsulaia: In order to ensure implementation of effective procedures for the detection and further response to aliens illegally staying in Georgia, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) elaborated Standard Operative Procedures (SOPs) for Structural Units and territorial divisions of the MIA. The SOPs envisage the procedures necessary to identify an alien as well as to define their legal grounds for stay in the country, the detention procedure of the alien, the right of the alien during detention and the procedure followed by the Migration Department in order to respond to the authorised departments of the MIA. The Ministry of Internal Affairs competences to fight irregular migration are shared between four relevant agencies, namely: the Border Police, the Patrol Police, the Criminal Police and the Migration Department. In order to ensure effective coordination in line with Order #730 of 22 September 2014 of the Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia, the Coordination Group for the Fight against Irregular Migration was established. The group is composed of representatives from different departments of the MIA. The objective of this group is to develop a unified policy for migration-related issues and improve the migration management process. Working group meetings are held on a regular basis and the group is coordinated by the Migration Department and headed by the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia.
ENIGMMA: The Migration Department also serves a Temporary Accommodation Centre (TAC) for aliens staying in Georgia without legal grounds before their removal. Can you briefly explain for our readers how sufficient the TAC is and the overall capacity of its reception system?
Mr Zaza Pantsulaia: The TAC has been functioning since 1 September 2014. The Centre is used for the accommodation of foreigners staying in Georgia without the relevant legal grounds. The construction of the Centre was financed by the Government of Georgia. It was constructed with the support and active cooperation of international partners and donors and is built and equipped in compliance with international standards. Detainees are provided with medical and psychological support. Persons with disabilities are placed in respectively adapted rooms. The Centre also provides protection of children’s best interests, including the right to education and necessary conditions for free-time activities. The TAC includes a library, a computer room and a playground for the detained migrants. The Centre is designed for 92 persons. It has two separate blocks for males and females and another separate block for families.
ENIGMMA: The Migration Department is one of the very few European law enforcement institutions which has volunteered to act as an internal monitoring and control body for the human rights situation of detained irregular migrants. What are the measures foreseen in order to ensure that the human rights of migrants accommodated in the TAC are fully respected and to prevent potential violations of human rights?
Mr Zaza Pantsulaia: The Foreigners’ Rights Protection and Monitoring Unit of the Migration Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia serves as the internal monitoring mechanism within the Migration Department. International practice reveals the fact that the protection of the human rights of detained foreigners is mainly implemented by the external monitoring mechanism. The function of the unit is to prevent improper treatment towards the detained foreigners, as well as to monitor the protection of the human rights of foreigners and ensure the realisation of their rights. For this purpose employees of the Foreigners’ Rights Protection and Monitoring Unit, without violating the principle of privacy, are authorised periodically or upon the request of accommodated persons to conduct interviewing, receive their applications and complaints and draft the appropriate protocols; the unit controls the timely implementation of aliens’ legal requirements. Employees of the Foreigners’ Rights Protection and Monitoring Unit are introduced to all the documents drafted in connection with the aliens’ detention, placement in the temporary accommodation centre, and other procedures. According to the monitoring results, the unit presents specific recommendations to the Director of the MD. The unit also actively cooperates with non-governmental and international human rights organisations.
Protection of the human rights of individuals placed in the Migration Department accommodation centre is one of the priority issues. The International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) supports capacity building for the Foreigners’ Rights Protection and Monitoring Unit. In this regard a number of experts were invited by ICMPD in order to establish the operational system for monitoring the protection of human rights. Respected experts have conducted trainings on the following issues: basic principles of monitoring the rights of illegal migrants; internationally recognised duties and standards of the human rights during detention; accommodation in the centre; and expulsion/returning. With the support of the abovementioned organisation, the SOPs of the Foreigners’ Rights Protection and Monitoring Unit of the Migration Department are being processed.