Survey: Emigration From Georgia and Its Causes

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Date: Thu, 21 Jun 2001 12:33:46 +0300 (EEST)
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Subject: Survey: Emigration From Georgia and Its Causes

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Survey: Emigration From Georgia and Its Causes 

International Centre "For a Peaceful Caucasus"
Emigration From Georgia and Its Causes

The Results of a Sociological Survey of Public Opinion



The population of the Soviet Union had no right to emigrate. As mythic
were the imaginations of the Soviet people on life in the West, as
ephemeral were their chances to go there for permanent residence. Even
a wish to emigrate was considered as being seditious. It was this
phenomenon that was used as the main target by the countries with a
developed democracy in the ideological war against the socialist camp. 

Incidentally the movement for human rights in the former Soviet Union
had a more or less mass character as regards persons of a Jewish
ethnic background who were deprived of the right to repatriate to

Destruction of the USSR and democratization of the Republics created
conditions where citizens could realize their rights to emigrate. A
social, economic and political crisis at the beginning of the 1990s,
in the countries of the former USSR, including Georgia, made the
process of emigration spontaneous. It became one of the coping
strategies of the population forced by poor living conditions to seek
a better destiny. Emigration was no longer treated as reprehensible in
public opinion. On the other hand, Western countries had a face the
problem of illegal migration from the republics of the former USSR.

It is known now that Georgia is considered to be a source country of
irregular migration, especially to the West. Such activities as
disrespect for the period of stay prescribed, illegal work, forgery of
documents etc. became common for migrants from Georgia. This was
caused partly by the change in visa policy at the US Embassy in
Tbilisi. In 1999 the refusal rate increased considerably: in 1996
about 17% of applicants were turned down; in 1999 the refusal rate
reached at almost 50%; in the first part of the year 2000 this rate
was in some months as high as 70%.

Data about compulsory repatriation of illegal migrants from Georgia
has become more available by virtue of the mentioned report. In 1999,
the Dutch authority ordered 226 Georgian citizens to leave the
Netherlands. Of these, 167 obeyed and left the country and 59 were
actually expelled to Georgia. Israel in 1999 deported 164 persons back
to Georgia, etc..

Unfortunately, there are no reliable statistics in Georgia about
migrations. The State Department for Statistics estimates that between
1990 and 1998, a total of 294,600 citizens of Georgia left the
country. Data of the Visa and Registration Agency on the processes of
emigration are of little help. In fact, its official statistics
describes the processes of repatriation of persons of Jewish, Greek,
and partially German ethnic background. They form the great majority
in the list of emigrants. We can suppose that the number of Georgian
citizens is much greater. But some independent experts think that in
the same period, in total more than 1 million citizens departed.
Various methods are used to calculate migration processes and
different figures are presented.  

However we have the latest data on the international migration of the
(thsd. person)
                1994      1996    1998    1999
Arrivals        12.7       1.2     0.4     0.4
Departures      44.2       12.9    0.6     1.3
Migrational     -31.5      -11.    -0.2    -0.9

It follows from this data, that the migration process is dwindling in
Georgia. Those who could leave have already done so. On the other
hand, and not many people arrived in Georgia. However there has
recently been a tendency towards a slight rise in the number of

Most of the emigrants have made their way to Russia. Our researches
confirm this (see below). A new circumstance has emerged recently -
the visa regime between the Russian Federation and Georgia that causes
tremendous problems for Georgian citizens in Russia.

A delicate feature of the emigration from Georgia is that a
significant number of emigrants consists of representatives of
national minorities. This fact was interpreted by some political
forces as a result of discriminative national policies in our country.
So one of the goals of our survey was to determine the significance of
discriminatory factors of emigration, based on prejudice against
ethnic minorities.

The present study is the fourth one dedicated to the problems of
emigration from Georgia. The first one was carried out in 1994 with
the assistance of the Caucasus Institute for Peace, Development and
Democracy; the second one in 1996 with the assistance of the Institute
"Open Society Georgia", the third one in 1998 with the assistance of
the Regional Office for the Caucasus and Mission to Georgia of the IOM
and the fourth one with the assistance of the Department for
International Development. All researches were carried out mainly in
regions with an ethnically mixed population.

In this year it becomes possible to broaden the programme of the
survey and also to carry it out in the regions with an ethnically
homogenous population.

The situation in Georgia at the time of the last survey differs from
the one in 1998. The relative stability of 1998 has changed into
stagnation and a decline in the social and economic conditions. The
budget crisis became permanent and catastrophic character. Political
turmoil, a crisis of confidence towards authority and overwhelming
corruption caused deep frustration and disappointment in the society.


A hypothesis of the survey was that there is a rise of migratory
intentions in the sample in comparison with the survey carried out in
1998; labour migration has become more topical and is now one of the
most significant coping strategies for the population.

The Aims of the Research:

- determination of the dynamics of the migratory background in regions
with an ethnically mixed population during the periods 1994-1996,
1996-1998 and 1998-2001;
- determination of the dynamics of the population's intention to
emigrate in regions with an ethnically mixed population during the
periods 1994-1996, 1996-1998 and 1998-2001;
- determination of migratory background in regions with an ethnically
homogenous population;
- determination of migratory intentions in regions with an ethnically
homogenous population;
- analysis of the structure of emigration factors; ascertainment if
discrimination is the reason for emigration, especially for ethnic
- determination of the ratio of reasons for and against going abroad.

As of result of changes in the programme it was impossible to trace
the dynamics on some issues.

Research Subject - Public Opinion Concerning the Process of Emigration
from Georgia and its Reasons.

The research objective was to collect, analyze and present information
to various organizations - both governmental and non-governmental -
which are interested in the problem of emigration.

Places where research was carried out:
regions with mixed ethnic composition (Tbilisi, Batumi, Rustavi);
regions with homogenous ethnic composition: the Tskhaltubo and
Chokhotauri distr. (inhabited mostly by Georgians); the Akhalkalaki
and Ninotsminda distr. (inhabited mostly by Armenians); the Marneuli
distr. (inhabited mostly by Azerbaijanians).

The research was carried out in urban and rural areas.

The tasks of the research:

to ascertain respondents'
- opinion on the reasons for emigration («decrease of living
standards», «a lack of confidence in morrow», «an increase in crime»,
«to reunite with relatives», «political crisis», «unfavourable
attitudes of authorities and population towards ethnic moments», «no
possibilities of realisation of the needs for language and culture»,
«no possibilities of realisation of religious feelings», etc..);
- opinion as to why people abstain from emigration («do not want to
leave relatives», «do not want to leave an acquired property», «a lack
of material resources», «a lack of self-confidence», «poor health»,

to collect information about
- the members of the respondents' families who emigrated;
- the attitudes of the respondents' immediate surroundings (relatives,
neighbours, acquaintances, colleagues, friends etc..) toward
- to find out how respondents estimate some parts of their life.

Research Methods

Anonymous questioning and interviewing were used. Respondents were
questioned at the place of their residence. The method of document
analysis was also applied.


>From the moderator: The full text of the report (7 files, total 323 Kb) can be obtained from the author or from the MINELRES moderator by request.

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