Enhancing cooperation among the Prague Process states

03 December 2018


Migration is high on the political agenda in Georgia. Large shifts in population and phases of significant emigration during the last 25 years have shaped approaches to migration management and efforts to efficiently manage migration in Georgia. Through the current Migration Strategy and the related Action Plan for 2013-2015, Georgia has started to successfully institutionalise migration management. A new Migration Strategy document, covering the period from 2016 to 2020, is being developed at the time of publication, with this report contributing to the drafting process.

The State of Migration in Georgia is an up-to-date report which covers a wide range of migration-related issues, a review of the legislative and the migration management institutional frameworks, an analysis of available research and data, and includes a detailed breakdown of immigration and emigration (populations and movements) for Georgia.

While migration-related data collection methodologies have changed over time, and population as well as migration statistics will be subject to revision, preliminary results from the 2014 General Population Census show a population decline of around 640,000 persons since the 2002 census. Available data also suggest a trend towards increased immigration, but both 

the consistent surplus of births and immigration have been outweighed by emigration.

In the absence of official data on immigrant stocks in Georgia, estimates put the number of the foreign-born population at 190,000, including more than 100,000 migrants born in the Russian Federation. Current inflows have been assessed through statistics on border crossings and reached around 82,000 persons (2014), 61% of which were Georgian nationals, with Russian citizens (12%) being the second-largest group.

Russians, Azerbaijanis, Armenians, Ukrainians, Kazakhs, Belarusians, Chinese, Turks and Indians appear to be among the main groups of immigrants living in Georgia today, considering statistics on residence permits, migration statistics, census data until 2002 and UN estimates. The number of naturalisations has increased in recent years to around 12,000 in 2013. Azerbaijanis (285,000) and Armenians (249,000) were found to be the largest ethnic minority groups (according to self-identification) in the 2002 census; however, without additional information it is not possible to distinguish the shares of foreign-born and Georgian-born among these minorities.

The most recent estimates from the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) on international migrant stocks put the number of Georgian-born persons currently living abroad at 740,000. Here as well, the largest group is residing in the Russian Federation (440,000), with sizeable groups also in Ukraine, Greece and Armenia. Relatively speaking, persons from Georgia who have been recognised as refugees abroad, including other forms of protection (6,700), and asylum seekers (11,600) constitute relatively small groups.

International protection has been gaining importance rapidly, as is shown by the marked increase in annual asylum applications in Georgia, but remains at a comparatively low level, with 357 persons granted refugee and humanitarian status currently settled in Georgia. During 2013, 717 asylum seekers (compared to 599 in 2012) – mostly from Iraq – filed new applications, and 31 persons were issued positive decisions.

Net emigration from Georgia was high during the 1990s. The often-cited population decline between 1989 and 2002 was largely due to ethnic emigration (Russians, Armenians, Greeks, and other groups), to the exclusion of the two break-away regions of Georgia from official statistics, and (only to a minor extent) to emigration loss among ethnic Georgians. Current emigrant flows amount to 89,000 persons (for 2014), almost four-fifths of which are Georgian nationals, with one-fifth being foreign nationals.

Despite the fact that no comparable increase in the number of Georgian emigrants is visible from available data, remittances to Georgia have shown steady growth and amounted to a record sum of almost 1.5 billion USD in 2013. On a smaller scale, out-remittances also reached a record high of 155 million USD in the same year.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and ecological migrants are among the most vulnerable groups of migrants, largely owing to their socio-economic position. However, while the legal status of IDPs is defined and statistics are collected regularly (224,000 in 2014), the number of ecomigrants is unknown and no legal provisions exist to regulate the quality and security of housing, labour market integration or livelihood strategies. Improvements in these fields are also needed for IDPs.

The data presented show that migration flows have diversified both in terms of geographical dispersal and characteristics of migrants. Further, the collected and analysed data also confirm that Georgia’s attractiveness for immigrants is growing.

However, more research on migration, migrants and migration policy in Georgia is required, and public institutions as well as research institutions should receive more support. Public institutions should also aim to use available research resources and results for defining migration policy in Georgia. Until the publication of the full 2014 national census results, this publication aims at delivering the most comprehensive assessment of migration processes, effects, and migrant populations for Georgia. It can also serve as a source of evidence-based analysis for the drafting of the new State Migration Strategy for 2016-2020.


Mariam Chumburidze, Good Governance and Innovations Programme Coordinator at the Innovations and Reforms Center (IRC), Nino Ghvinadze, Researcher at ICMPD ENIGMMA, Sopiko Gvazava is a project assistant at the Innovations and Reforms Center (IRC) in Tbilisi. Roland Hosner, Research Officer at ICMPD Vienna Violeta Wagner, ENIGMMA Project Manager, Tamar Zurabishvili, Researcher at ICMPD ENIGMMA Pilot Analytical Unit. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced, copied or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission of the copyright owners. This document has been produced in the framework of the project ‘Enhancing Georgia’s Migration Management (ENIGMMA)’ with the assistance of the European Union. The content of this document is the sole responsibility of ICMPD and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the donors or the State Commission on Migration Issues.