Monday, July 17, 2017

Some in Georgia fear visa liberalization will lead to more refugees

Visa liberalization with the EU Schengen zone countries has been a much celebrated milestone for Georgia. But with new opportunities for Georgia to move closer to Europe come new opportunities for anti-European sentiment. CRRC data show that some people in Georgia fear that visa liberalization could increase the number of refugees coming to Georgia. To complicate the issues further, Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sebastian Kurz made a comment suggesting that there was a need to build refugee camps outside the EU, in countries like Georgia. Such statements could play on fears of an increase in refugees and foreigners more generally in Georgia.

In looking at data from the most recent CRRC/NDI survey, conducted in April 2017, approximately half of the population of Georgia believe that as a result of visa liberalization more refugees will come to Georgia, with a sizable share of the population (20%) responding they don’t know whether this will or will not be the case. While it is true that the visa liberalization process required the Government of Georgia to harmonize their laws in accordance with EU legislation, including making laws on the process of accepting refugees and asylum seekers clearer, the truth is that these laws will not necessarily increase the number of refugees and asylum seekers in Georgia. CRRC/NDI data, however, suggest that at least part of the population is misinformed about the issue.


In contrast, when asked about potential threats of visa liberalization more broadly in an earlier, CRRC/CIPDD survey conducted in January/February 2017, far fewer people mentioned refugees, or foreigners more generally, entering Georgia. According to the findings of CRRC/CIPDD survey, 27% said visa liberalization would have no negative consequences and 15% said they didn’t know. Slightly over half (58%) named some negative consequences of the visa liberalization. Rather small shares, though, named the threat of more foreigners (5%), refugees (4%) and terrorists (9%) coming to Georgia.

Note: This was an open-ended question for which each respondent could provide up to two answers.

While the answers to these two survey questions cannot be compared, they give us some understanding of the fears of the population of Georgia about visa liberalization regarding the possible influx of refugees. Although a small share of the population was worried about refugees entering the country even before visa liberalization came into force and saw that possibility as a potential threat, a much bigger threat was associated with Georgian citizens leaving the country.

To explore the CRRC/NDI data presented in this blog post, visit our online data analysis tool. Keep an eye out for the CIPDD dataset in the near future as well.

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