Georgia Human Development Report from 2008 states that average incomes in Georgia continue to be lower than they were in 1991. When the government came to power in 2004, poverty was acknowledged to be a major problem and, along with unemployment, was one of the most pressing issues that faced the government and the people. The level of poverty differs according to the methodology used. According to the UNDP’s two dollars a day estimate, 25 percent of the population lives in poverty. This crude figure allows comparison with other countries in the region. While there is no consensus about the absolute level of poverty in Georgia, there seems to be a general agreement that there has been little change in either poverty or extreme poverty over the last four years. (Georgia Human Development Report, 2008. The Reforms and Beyond. UNDP Georgia.)
The review of migration management in Georgia done by IOM Tbilisi in January 2008 describes that Georgia lies at the border between Europe and Asia and is a transit route of trans-Eurasian and intercontinental traffic making it at the same time a country of origin, transit and destination.
Russia and Georgia have agreed on delimiting 80 percent of their common border, leaving certain small, strategic segments and the maritime boundary not yet demarcated. The border with Armenia remains not demarcated and there are discussions with Azerbaijan in regard to the alignment of the common border at certain crossing areas.
Since mid-2006, all land and sea borders between Georgia and Russia have been closed following a unilateral decision from Russia as a result of strained diplomatic relations between the two countries. Because of this situation there are currently no direct transport links operated between Georgia and Russia.
In the early 1990’s two conflicts broke out between the central Georgian government hand and the autonomous republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. As a result of these conflicts the Georgian government does not currently exert control over these two conflict areas, including control over movements in those regions, especially regarding border crossings to and from Russia. The “border” between Abkhazia and Georgia proper at the Inguri Bridge is controlled by CIS peacekeeping forces. Citizens of Georgia can currently not enter Abkhazia, except for the region of Gali. Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) move in considerable numbers to their homes in the Gali district, where a number of them settle seasonally or even permanently. The “border” with South Ossetia is controlled by the de-facto authorities of South Ossetia and citizens of Georgia can enter only when they have been cleared by these authorities.
The government faces several issues which hold implications for the management of migration flows across Georgia’s international borders and the stay of foreigners in the country.
The geographic position of Georgia in a region which faces possible instability has created an imminent threat of flows of refugees and displaced persons across its borders.
About a quarter of a million IDPs from Georgia’s secessionist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia have been waiting for a solution since their displacement in the early 1990s. The majority of the 220,000 to 250,000 IDPs have found refuge in the region bordering Abkhazia and in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. In order to improve their situation, the Georgian government adopted in early 2007 a national strategy on IDPs, drawn up with the support of the international community and civil society organizations.
Internal labour migration is significant, though largely unmonitored. Labour out-migration continues and there is a substantial diaspora of Georgians in many countries in Europe and the former Soviet Union, notably Russia. Many households in Georgia are heavily dependent on remittance flows. Despite an abundance of anecdotal information, the understanding of the administration of economic aspects of labour migration and the issues of remittances and migration and development are low.
Transit migration through Georgia raises several associated border control issues. Major structural problems in the areas of migration and border management as a whole negatively affect the country’s ability to control the flow of people across its own borders. In particular, those problems include the lack of a central government agency in charge of coordinating migration management, no system to keep track of visitors who overstay, coupled with a very liberal visa system. (Review of migration management in Georgia. Assessment report. IOM, January 2008.)