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USAID RULE OF LAW PROGRAM
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20 Jul 2023

TDI Report Highlights Foreigners' Legal Status and Racism in Georgia

On July 18, 2023, the Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI) organized a discussion and presentation of their special report titled: “Legal Status of Foreigners and Racism in Georgia.” The activity, supported by the USAID Rule of Law Program, was attended by about 40 representatives from local and international organizations, community groups, diplomatic corps, state agencies, and political parties. The meeting consisted of two sessions, with the first session focusing on the government's policy towards migrants and the needs of Ukrainian citizens in Georgia. The second session addressed the issue of racial discrimination in the country.

Mariam Gavtadze, Head of TDI's Strategic Litigation and Advocacy Division, provided an overview of the meeting's topics and highlighted the key issues discussed in TDI's special report. She emphasized that “the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, leading to an increase in the flow of migrants from these countries, particularly from the Russian Federation, has been a significant factor affecting the legal status of foreigners in Georgia in 2022. The report sheds light on the legal status and needs of refugees from Ukraine, which have become particularly relevant. TDI remains committed to addressing the legal status of migrants, specifically those from African and Asian countries who continue to report differential treatment in public and private interactions. The report also highlights the challenge posed by the unjustified practice of denying residence permits to individuals from specific countries.” - she said.

Eka Chitanava, Director of TDI, discussed the needs of Ukrainian citizens who arrived in Georgia following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. These needs include access to healthcare, employment opportunities, housing, education, and the integration of Ukrainian children into the educational system.

Ekaterine Megrelishvili, Coordinator of the project supporting Ukrainian refugees at the Center for Development and Cooperation, pointed out aspects of the situation faced by Ukrainian refugees in Georgia. She said that despite the state's measures to assist Ukrainians, it does not have a unified strategy to meet the refugees' needs. Megrelishvili also highlighted shortcomings in the state program for medical assistance to Ukrainian refugees, which unduly restricts access to healthcare services.

In the second part of the meeting focused on racial discrimination and state policies towards migrants, Darpan Prasher, Chairman of the Cultural Diversity for a Peaceful Future, and Dami Odetayo, representing the Church of God of Open Christians, shared the issues faced by Indian and Nigerian nationals in Georgia.

TDI Lawyers Saba Sutidze and Shota Tutberidze presented cases of racial discrimination related to border crossing and residence permit requirements. Investigations into the violations of the migrants' rights are frequently ineffective. Government-imposed barriers have eroded migrants' trust in the police and other state institutions, further exacerbating their vulnerable situation.

Overall, the TDI meeting provided a much-needed platform to discuss the legal status of foreigners, the needs of Ukrainian refugees, and the issue of racial discrimination in Georgia. The findings and discussions from the meeting will contribute to the ongoing efforts to address these challenges and promote inclusivity and tolerance in the country.

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