What is the institutional framework governing migration?
Georgia’s approach to migration management and its national migration strategy are products of its legislative framework on migration. This section describes this framework and how coherence across laws and ministerial objectives is handled. It is worth mentioning that many of the recent changes in legislation described below were undertaken in the context of Georgia’s advanced integration process with the EU, VLAP and the process of approximation of national legislation to European Standards.
Institutionally, several ministries deal with matters related to emigration, most notably the Ministry of Justice; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs. The Ministry of Justice is charged with issuing travel documents and determining the status of stateless persons. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through its diplomatic missions and consular offices abroad, ensures the protection of the rights and legal interests of Georgian citizens. It also negotiates visa and other migration-related agreements with other countries. The Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs monitors the employment and paid word of emigrants abroad who emigrated via specific programmes, ensuring they are adequately protected and their interests are served, particularly by their employers.
In addition to these three ministries, which are concerned with the process of emigration and the protection of emigrants working and living abroad, the Office of the State Minister for Diaspora Issues is charged with strengthening ties with Georgians living abroad, mobilising their economic and social potential for the development of the country, and preserving their national identify.
Four laws govern the process of emigration and rights of emigrants. The Law on the Procedure for the Citizens of Georgia to Leave and Enter Georgia was passed in 1993 sets the role of the state to review and decide upon the emigration of its citizens is outdated and impractical from a legal point of view. Its revision is on the government’s agenda. The Organic Law of Georgia on Citizenship of Georgia, passed in 2005, provides protection of rights of citizens of Georgia abroad in accordance with international law and legislation of Georgia. The Law on Compatriots Residing Abroad and Diaspora Organisations was passed in 2011. It defines the legal status of diaspora organisations and compatriots living abroad.11 More recently, the government passed the Law of Georgia on Labour Migration, which deals with regulation of Georgian workers abroad.
The reintegration of return migrants has taken a central place in migration policy in recent years. The TIG, a project under the Mobility Partnership Agreement signed between Georgia and the European union in November 2009, has helped facilitate the return process. This programme trains local authorities to deal with return migrants, aids return migrants through Mobility Centres and carries out information campaigns. The Mobility Centres, of which there are four in Georgia,12 have been particularly useful, as they provide a number of essential services to return migrants - transport, accommodation, vocational training and business plan development (SCMI, 2015a) - although they have had limited success in generating larger scale return (Chelidze, 2013).
Immigration matters are also dealt with by a number of ministries. The Ministry of Justice is responsible for issuing residence permits, granting citizenship to aliens and co-ordinating anti-trafficking policy. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is responsible for carrying out border controls, and combating illegal migration and human trafficking. The Ministry of labour, Health and Social Affairs is responsible for matters related to labour migration. The legislation on immigration has been overhauled in recent years. The previously mentioned Organic law on the Citizenship of Georgia, establishing the procedures for acquiring citizenship, and the law on the legal Status of Aliens and Stateless Persons, establishing visa and residence permit types, were both passed in 2014. In 2015, the law on labour Migration, establishing a mechanism for regulating labour migration flows, was passed. With migration flows becoming increasingly complex, Georgia began institutionalising cross-ministerial migration management in 2010, with the creation of the SCMI. The SCMI, which is chaired by the Ministry of Justice, consists of 13 state agencies13 that discuss and decide on issues related to migration management. It acts as a consultative body for the government. Notably, a number of international organisations14 and local non-governmental organisation (NGOs),15 dealing with migration, are also part of the Commission and hold consultative status.
As the main body collecting information on migration and co-ordinating the country’s migration policy, the SCMI’s tasks are primarily to ensure policy coherence. This includes monitoring overlaps between migration-related activities of various institutions, and ensuring resources are being used efficiently. Seven thematic working groups within the SCMI work on specific issues including migration and development and the reintegration of return migrants, statelessness and analytical systems.
The Secretariat of the SCMI provides analytical and administrative support and is hosted by the Public Service Development Agency of the Ministry of Justice of Georgia. The Secretariat prepares research briefings on migration in the country, drafts the Migration Strategy of Georgia and facilitates activities envisioned by the strategy, such as monitoring the implementation of its action plan and updating the SCMI about progress. It also organises biannual co-ordination meetings on migration management issues. Projects by different organisations are presented at these meetings, and participants are given the opportunity to discuss their work. This provides a valuable resource open to both policy makers and the academic community.