In November 2013, the Georgian Government presented the Law of Georgia on Legal Status of Aliens and Stateless Persons initiated by the State Commission on Migration Issues (SCMI). The Law was adopted by the Georgian Parliament in March 2014 and entered into force on 1 September 2014.
The aim of the Law is to: create legal guarantees for aliens lawfully residing in Georgia and stateless persons; protect the human rights of migrants; promote cooperation between Georgia and foreign states in economic, cultural, educational and scientific fields; harmonise Georgian legislation with the EU acquis, international treaties and customary law; and promote international cooperation in preventing illegal migration. Based on the interests of the State, the objective of the Law is to determine the legal basis and procedures for the arrival of foreigners in Georgia, as well as for their stay in and departure from Georgian territory. In addition, the Law aims to fill existing gaps in the legislation on migration, in particular with regard to the procedures for deportation of foreigners.
As a result of Georgia’s liberal policy towards the entry of foreigners to its territory, control over the legal stay of foreigners had not been efficient enough. Consequently, the flow of irregular and uncontrolled migration raised the need to change Georgia’s visa policy and determine which institution is responsible for issuing visas. The 2014 Law thus reduces the number of states from which foreigners can arrive in Georgia without a visa, as well as the duration of the foreigner’s stay in Georgia. Intended stays of no more than 90 days in a period of 180 days for multiple entry short-term visas are envisaged by the Law. As of September 2014, foreigners who need to obtain a visa are obliged to apply to the relevant Georgian representation abroad; only in exceptional cases can a Georgian visa be issued at the border. In addition, new procedures on the restriction of movement and expulsion from the territory of Georgia were mandated by the Law.
The Law was later amended several times. The major changes were related to residence rules provisions, i.e. the amendments introduce legal grounds for long-term residence for persons with the status of compatriot and simplified procedures for transiting the territory of Georgia for transporters of international cargo.
In early 2015, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia launched an e-visa portal allowing tourists and business visitors to receive short-term visas via a simplified procedure not requiring an appointment or the submission of original documents at an embassy. The simplified procedures consist of three steps: applying, making an online payment and printing out the e-visa. An e-visa can thus be easily obtained from anywhere with an internet connection, and grants the same right to enter the Georgian territory as a passport sticker visa. However, depending on the person’s nationality, there might be specific requirements. Therefore, visitors are informed of these requirements after they select the issuing country of their travel document and travel dates. E-visa holders must be able to present all the required documents upon arrival at the Georgian state border.
Organic Law on Citizenship
The new Organic Law of Georgia on Citizenship was adopted in 2014. The first Organic Law was adopted in 1993, but experts as well as practitioners realised that the Law no longer responded to current challenges related to citizenship. In addition, some of the Law’s regulations were no longer being applied because the prevailing situation had completely changed. These aspects, as well as the need to delete some incompatibilities in the text of the Law, were taken into account when drafting the text of the new Organic Law.
The new Law is also in line with the requirements and principles of the United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness (1961) and the European Convention on Nationality (1997). Later, in summer 2018, further significant changes were made to the Law, such as concerning regulations related to dual citizenship and provisions specifying the conditions for granting Georgian citizenship through a simplified procedure and by way of exception.
Since 1 February 2017, the Georgian asylum system has been regulated by the Law of Georgia on International Protection, which is in full compliance with the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (and its 1967 protocol), and enshrines the provisions contained in the EU Asylum Acquis. The Law specifies general principles and strengthens procedural safeguards at all stages of the asylum procedure; enshrines conditions of entry, stay and standards of treatment for asylum seekers and international protection holders on the territory of Georgia; introduces special procedures for persons with specific needs; and elaborates the rights, freedoms and obligations of asylum seekers and international protection holders. It also defines the competencies of the relative state agencies and the rules for coordination of their activities in the establishment of fair and efficient asylum procedure.
The Government of Georgia adopted the Law on Labour Migration in 2015. The aim of the Law is to establish effective mechanisms for regulating labour migration in Georgia, which will support the development of legal labour migration in the country and combat cases of irregular labour migration and trafficking. Moreover, the process will contribute to meeting the obligations acquired on the basis of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan (VLAP) and to the regulation of labour migration processes in the country. The Law regulates the labour arrangement for Georgian citizens, aliens holding a residence permit for Georgia, and stateless persons with a legal status in Georgia by protecting their rights and interests while they are outside of the country. It also regulates the labour arrangement for aliens not holding a permanent residence permit for Georgia and conducting remunerated labour activities. Georgia also plans to develop regulatory mechanisms for labour immigration in the future.
On 2 May 2014, the Parliament of Georgia passed the Law on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination and related by-laws. Adoption of the Law was among the obligations Georgia undertook in order to meet the requirements of the EU-Georgia Visa Liberalisation Action Plan. However, its adoption is not just important for implementation of the VLAP; the international community recognised the adoption of the Law as a positive step towards the establishment of higher standards for human rights and equality in Georgian society at large. The Law is intended to eliminate every form of discrimination and ensure equal rights for every natural and legal person under Georgian legislation, irrespective of race, skin colour, language, sex, age, citizenship, origin, place of birth or residence, property or social status, religion or belief, nationality, ethnic or social origin, profession, marital status, health, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, political or other opinions, or other characteristics.
In 2019, the amendments introduced in the anti-discrimination legislation significantly improved the legal and institutional guarantees of the fight against discrimination in Georgia. Both procedural and material-legal aspects of the law were amended. Namely, the law prohibits/sanctions harassment and sexual harassment. At the same time, the principle of equal rights of all individuals in the fields of labor, pre-agreement relations, education, social defense and healthcare became better protected. The law now prohibits not only encouragement, coercion and support of discrimination but also giving orders on discrimination. At the same time, the period for appealing the court was also expanded (from three months up to one year), the mandate of the Public Defender of Georgia with regard to individuals was reinforced: if private persons do not fulfill or share the recommendations of the Public Defender, the latter can sue them in the court and demand fulfilment of the recommendations. Simultaneously, violators have responsibility to provide the Public Defender with all requested information and documentation.
State Inspector’s Service
State Inspector’s Service is an independent state authority that, as a legal successor of the Office of the Personal Data Protection Inspector, operates in Georgia since 10 May, 2019. The key directions of its activities are: monitoring lawfulness of personal data processing; monitoring covert investigative actions and activities performed within the central databank of electronic communications identification data; impartial and effective investigation of grave crimes committed by a representative of law-enforcement authorities, by an official or a person equal to an official against human rights and freedoms, investigation of crimes committed by public officers with the use of violence or insulting personal dignity of a victim7.
The Law on the State Inspector’s Service was adopted in July 2018. Initially, the investigative authority of the Service was scheduled to start activities on January 1, 2019 but the date was first postponed to July 1 and then to November 1, 2019.
Since November 1, the violent crimes allegedly committed by the law enforcement officers and other public officers are effectively investigated by the State Inspector’s Service. The Law of Georgia on the State Inspector’s Service authorizes the State Inspector’s Service to conduct independent and impartial investigation of similar crimes. The creation of similar independent investigative mechanism by the State was response to the recommendations of the Public Defender of Georgia, international and local human rights organizations and experts.
On 30 April 2014, the Parliament of Georgia adopted the National Human Rights Strategy of Georgia for 2014-2020. The Strategy is based on the concept of protecting and promoting the realisation of their human rights by all Georgian citizens in their day-to-day lives. It also demarcates the long-term goals and objectives of the Government in the area of human rights and looks towards the formulation of a progressive and unified cross-sector policy, aimed at strengthening the protection of human rights within state agencies and promoting “better governance” in the country as a whole. The document serves as the main instrument for defining the core human rights priorities and strategic directions of the Government. It is focused on achieving the following goals in particular: coherence of the legislative/institutional frameworks with the development strategy, as well as any requirements stipulated in the corresponding Action Plan; conducting wide-ranging public awareness raising campaigns on human rights and how to realise these rights in practice; and regular rendering of the positive and negative duties of all government representatives and public agencies with respect to human rights. In general, however, it is the primary concern of the Government to ensure continued and absolute compliance with European standards of protection of human rights in Georgia.
The Strategy calls the Government to fulfil the main duties in ensuring respect for the human rights of all Georgian citizens, in particular: inviolability of their human rights by the State; defence against human rights violations by others; creation of a system that will allow persons to realise their rights in practice; and adequate informing of the population on their human rights. With a view to achieving its long-term goals, the Strategy envisaged certain legislative, institutional and practical changes in the area of human rights. Among others, ensuring the rights of migrants has been prioritised for the period 2014-2020.