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Georgian Gov’t to Impose Restrictions on Visa-Free Travel to EU

By Tea Mariamidze
Friday, April 27
Ruling Georgian Dream (GD) MPs have set up a new draft law, which envisages stricter regulations for Georgian citizens, who want to travel to the European Union visa-free.

According to the document, the Georgian border guards will have the right to not let the citizen leave for the EU zone. The draft determines the list of documents that the passenger must have at the time of crossing the border and if the border guards find any shortcomings in the documents, the citizen will not be allowed to leave the country.

The list of necessary documents, envisaged by the draft, looks as follows:

- Biometric passport issued during the last 10 years and the period of validity of which is not less than 3 months by the date of return to Georgia;

- Traveler's return ticket;

- Reservation of the hotel / residential apartment or other certifying document or host address residing in the territory of the EU / Schengen Area;

- travel insurance;

- Document confirming the traveler has enough financial resources to cover the travel.

The authors of the draft claim the aim of the draft law is to increase the efficiency of preventive mechanisms within the existing resources and to reduce the number of such Georgian citizens into EU / Schengen space countries, who will not be able to observe visa-free travel rules.

However, the opposition parties believe that if the draft is adopted by the parliament, it may increase corruption risks or become the tool of political persecution of government’s opponents.

“Adoption of this draft is inadmissible and harmful for Georgia,” Roman Gotsiridze, member of the United National Movement (UNM) says.

In addition to this draft, the second legislative initiative has been submitted to the parliament by the 8 MPs of the majority. According to the project, a new special article will be added to the Criminal Code of Georgia, according to which the Georgian citizen faces 3 to 6 years imprisonment if he / she illegally transferred people to a foreign country or helped them with illegal crossing of the border.

Parliamentary minority European Georgia believes that the government will use this draft for declaring innocent people as criminals.

“We will fight to defend visa-liberalization but it is not to create additional problems to Georgian citizens, who leave the country in order to escape the poverty here,” Davit Bakradze, one of the leaders of the party said.

Several European countries have expressed concern regarding the increased number of asylum seekers from Georgia recently. Some of them even alleged that the suspension mechanism might be activated in order to prevent mass inflow of illegal migrants and asylum seekers.

Georgian government pledged to solve the problem, saying activation of suspension mechanism will not be needed.

Visa-free regime with the European Union took effect on March 28, 2017.