Unravelling Statelessness: Georgia's Addition to the Statelessness Index

Saba Chitidze, Policy and Advocacy Officer at Rights Georgia, and Salome Jokhadze, Project Coordinator at Rights Georgia.
/ 4 mins read

In January 2024, Georgia’s country profile was integrated into ENS’ Statelessness Index, evaluating the country’s adherence to international norms and best practices concerning the safeguarding of stateless individuals, as well as the efforts made in preventing and mitigating statelessness. This addition is a testament to the collaborative efforts with the Georgian organisation Rights Georgia, underscoring the nation's journey in confronting its successes and shortcomings regarding statelessness.

Georgia Country Index

Since 2012, when Georgia ratified the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, significant progress has been made, buoyed by advocacy from entities like the UNHCR and civil society. This blog post delves into the triumphs and trials of Georgia's battle against statelessness, examining its determination procedures, the rights of stateless persons, pathways to nationality, and the issue of childhood statelessness.

Statelessness determination procedure

Georgia has a relatively streamlined statelessness determination procedure, albeit with some minor shortcomings and a need for improvement. Applying for stateless status is a straightforward process accessible from various parts of the country, and there are no associated application fees. Lawful residency within the country is not a prerequisite for the application. While the application should be filled out in Georgian, the form is available in different languages, and translators are made available where needed. Once submitted, the applications undergo examination within a reasonable timeframe of up to nine months. During this period, applicants are granted temporary ID cards, allowing them to lawfully reside in Georgia.

However, there is no state-funded legal representation available in the process. To make up for this shortcoming, certain non-governmental organisations (NGOs) offer qualified legal assistance to applicants. The latter have the right to appeal if their initial application is rejected, but there is no guaranteed protection against detention and expulsion as the case is being processed by the court. While cases of expulsion during this process have yet to be recorded, there is a need for legislative measures to guarantee applicants' legal stay during the appeal period. The current lack of protection jeopardises the right to appeal and therefore the right to a fair trial.

Rights of Stateless Persons in Georgia

Once an individual obtains the stateless status in Georgia, they are entitled to numerous legal, social, and economic guarantees. These include a renewable three-year residence permit, an ID card, and a travel document issued by Georgia. They are also afforded basic rights such as the right to work, free primary and secondary education, access to healthcare services, and a basic health care package. Additionally, free Georgian language classes are provided to stateless persons for their social integration. In essence, stateless individuals enjoy similar rights and freedoms to Georgian nationals, with the exception of certain rights specifically reserved for citizens. However, they are unable to exercise the right to family reunification, unlike asylum-seekers and refugees. This limitation hampers their ability to reunite with their loved ones and settle their families in the country.

Acquiring Nationality

Georgia has made significant strides in providing a flexible pathway for stateless individuals to acquire Georgian nationality, notably with legislative amendments adopted in 2023. Stateless individuals seeking Georgian nationality are now required to reside in the country for five years only, instead of the previous requirement of ten years which still applies to other applicants for naturalisation. As part of the process, the applicants must demonstrate proficiency in the Georgian language, history, and basic principles of law through standardised tests. These amendments signify a simplification of the procedure for stateless individuals to apply for Georgian nationality, ultimately contributing to their full integration into society, improving their legal conditions, and Georgia’s efforts in ending statelessness.

Other prior features of nationality acquisition in Georgia is that there can be no grounds for refusal of naturalisation, such as security concerns, the discovery of another nationality, or the submission of false documentation. Furthermore, there is no application fee for recognised stateless persons seeking to acquire Georgian nationality.

Childhood Statelessness

Georgian legislation establishes significant guarantees to address childhood statelessness. According to current legislation, children automatically acquire Georgian nationality at birth if both parents are recognised as stateless persons in Georgia, or if one parent is stateless and the other is unknown. Additionally, foundlings are granted Georgian nationality and are presumed to be Georgian nationals until the contrary is established.

However, a notable gap remains: Georgia does not grant nationality to children born within its territory who would otherwise be stateless. This situation leaves the children in an administrative limbo, without the legal protections and rights afforded to them. This is a problem that needs addressing to both fulfil Georgia’s international obligations and for ending statelessness in the country. This issue has become a focal point for advocacy efforts, aiming to bridge this gap and ensure the protection and rights of all children, regardless of their status and parentage.

Georgia's recent inclusion in the Statelessness Index country profiles marks a significant milestone in acknowledging the progress the country has made and addressing the obstacles in the field of statelessness within its borders. Despite notable progress in legal frameworks and procedures for stateless determination, including streamlined application processes and pathways to nationality, there remain significant challenges. These include issues such as limited legal consultation, lack of guaranteed protection during appeals, and gaps in addressing childhood statelessness. Moving forward, concerted efforts are crucial to address these shortcomings and ensuring that all individuals, regardless of their status, can fully access their rights and protections under the law.

Related topics