The FINANCIAL -- “According to statistics on migration, more than one million citizens of Georgia are currently outside the country,” Adeline Braux, Researcher at the French Institute of Anatolian Studies (IFEA-Istanbul), in charge of the Caucasus branch (Baku), told The FINANCIAL.
“In the year 2011 alone, citizens of Georgia passed the border with Turkey one million times. Circular migration to a large extent is independent from Georgia, but migrants will take advantage of this opportunity to go somewhere then come back, it allows them (especially women) not to be absent, from home, from children or from sick parents, for too long.”
“Firstly, from a purely demographic point of view, the largest outflow of the ‘90s strongly affected the size of the Georgian population,” Adeline Braux, Researcher at the French Institute of Anatolian Studies (IFEA-Istanbul), in charge of the Caucasus branch (Baku), told The FINANCIAL. “When more than one million of the population of Georgia is located abroad, this means that the country has lost nearly 20 percent of its overall population. For such a small country this is a very serious problem. It means that whole families have left, that a large segment of the working population has left, and so on. At the same time, in the post-Soviet period of transition, remittances (through banks, or basically just from hand to hand) helped many families in Georgia not to live in poverty.”
“Most often, statistics are transmitted through international organizations such as the UN, International Organization for Migration, the World Bank, UNHCR etc. The fact is that these organizations rely on the statistics provided by national statistics organizations. This does not apply only to Georgia, but also to Azerbaijan and Armenia, to mention only the countries of the South Caucasus,” she said.
“All migration specialists in the region agree that there is an absence of true data in the area of migration. There are various reasons for this, for example up until now many people have been registered as being resident in their home country, when in reality they have left. Nevertheless, the statistics show that more than one million citizens of Georgia are outside the country. In the year 2011 alone, citizens of Georgia passed the border with Turkey one million times. This does not mean that one million people have moved from Georgia to Turkey, but nevertheless, it says a lot about the frequency of these movements,” Adeline Braux added.
“Basically the migration situation is linked with the socio-economic situation in Georgia. In the meantime, Georgia remains extremely difficult for many, with a lack of jobs, adequate healthcare and so on. The migration outflow is not as strong now as it was in the ‘90s. We must also realize that certain people to some degree move abroad because they think that, for example in Western Europe, everything will be easier and better. This is the so-called ‘desire for another place’, or ‘we are well, where we are not’,” she added.
“It is not quite accurate to say that ‘Georgia will become a country of circular migration’, circular migration is not signing a contract. This is a type of phenomena in the area of migration. And by the way, for Georgia, it already exists. But circular migration, however, is highly dependent on the policies in the field of migration. Turkey is again a very good example in relation to Georgia. For Georgian citizens it is very easy to get to Turkey, and it certainly gave a strong push to Georgian migration to this country, especially now that Russia is closed to Georgian migrants. However, changes have been made to Turkish legislation recently which mean that migrants from Georgia will not be able to come, stay, leave and come back again as was possible earlier. This will certainly affect the migration processes. Circular migration to a large extent is independent from Georgia, but migrants will take advantage of this opportunity to go somewhere then come back which allows them (especially women) not to be absent, from home, from children or from sick parents, for too long,” she said.
“There are many positive and negative sides to migration for both countries, for the country where they migrate to and for the country from which they migrate,” Manana Ratiani, PHD in Geographical Sciences, expert-consultant at the National Center for Teacher Professional Development, told The FINANCIAL. “Perhaps first and foremost it should be noted that international migration is one way to eliminate inequality between countries, adding to more equal distribution of resources and opportunities. Migration is also a result of globalization, as well as a cause of speeding up globalization.”
“Countries where the number of migrant outflows is more than the inflows, face many problems. The most significant of which are unemployment, education and less of a chance of getting other social goods. This is what pushes the adult population to leave a country. Also, there may be a lack of democracy, or environmental degradation (migrants), as well as political conflicts. However, regardless of whatever kinds of reasons there may be, people are always looking for opportunities to improve their quality of life,” she said.
“Remittances can be considered positives. This is because of the fact that people send them to family members to improve their living conditions. As well as this, they help to reduce unemployment and competition in the workplace. However, a lack of competition in the workplace is not always good, it is possible for it to create a problem for employers in terms of lack of choice. Also if a brain drain takes place, then it turns out that the country has spent resources on a person’s education that will benefit, and will be paying taxes to, another country, the one where they will be employed,” Ratiani added.
“As a result of migration there are also changes in the sex and age structures. A country with a great inflow of migrants will have a more working-age population. This working-age population diminishes from the country of which they migrate. There are also changes in the sex structure. Earlier when there was greater demand for industry sectors, heavy metallurgy for example, there was more demand for a male labour force. However, nowadays when there is an increasing share of the service sector in the economy, there is increased migration of women,” she said.
“The problem of migration is very real nowadays worldwide, as it is changing natural processes, altering the picture of the population. It should also be noted that the main flow is directed from developing to developed countries, which is natural as everyone wants to improve their conditions. Frequently, developed countries often impose various barriers on entering a country in order to clamp down on the migration process. The most common form of barrier is a visa regime, a multitude of processes related to visa issuance indicate a country’s dependence on this process,” she added.
“There is no universal recipe to solve this problem. The individual countries themselves make the choice of what kind of immigration policy to establish, derived from the objective they have. Social, economic, political, demographic factors and trends should all be taken into consideration. All countries, taking into account their own interests, can solve this problem. For example, the United States - it has a strict visa regime, as well as large sums of money being spent on protecting the border with Mexico. Meanwhile, the Georgian border is open and there is no problem with coming here. By comparison, Singapore governs according to its will, for example, they have a demographic problem, the population is declining, but instead of letting anyone into the country they prefer to open the country only to graduates. Also they have complicated processes related to adult outflow, in terms of setting up a family,” Ratiani said.
“Policy plays an important role in migration, because wars and conflicts have always been followed by forced migration. As well as that there is more will to travel from authoritarian and less democratic countries to democratic ones. Often the latter are hindered by limitations. There are countries in which the state itself promotes migration. For example, Bangladesh, due to population density, natural growth, and unemployment being too high, the state is not able to solve these problems, and so they promote the employment of foreign workers. As well as the importance of the part policy plays, is what kind of migration policy a country will have,” she added.
“The problem with Georgia is the flow of the working population of the country, which demographically complicates our situation, as there is a declining birth rate. Also the problem is that the majority of people are employed in positions inconsistent with their education, which means that the investment in education is being spent in vain. In their place there is a great inflow from less developed countries with less education. If the economic and social problems are not resolved in time, with the EU visa policy easing it may lead to a very large migration. Thus, we need to be positively prepared for this move so that Georgia will not empty. There were a lot of promises made by the government before 2008, but those have not been met, which can be seen from the number of people’s relatives who continue to work abroad,” she said.