Georgians Protest Tightened Border-Crossing Regulations Imposed by Turkey

Georgian citizens living near the Georgia-Turkey border in western Georgia, are holding protest rallies against new tightened border-crossing regulations imposed by the Turkish side, which took effect on January 1.

Based on these changes, Georgian citizens have the right to stay on the territory of Turkey for 90 days in any 180-day period. After 90 days, Georgian citizens now need to obtain a residency permit or working visa, otherwise they will be told to leave the Turkish territory.

Moreover, according to the new regulations, crossing the border even for an hour will be considered as one calendar day. Previously, crossing the Turkish border for one day or less was not recorded in the database.

Turkey’s Consulate in Batumi, Adjara region, reported last week that the border-crossing changes refer to all checkpoints and customs, and apply to all foreigners.

Georgians who work in Turkey but live in Georgia say the changes will leave them without jobs, as they leave for Turkey every morning, and come back to Georgia at the end of the day.

The protesters are calling on the Turkish authorities to make exceptions to the new regulations that will enable them to continue working in Turkey as before.

In parallel with the local Georgians, Turkish vendors who have shops on the Turkish territory near the border also disapprove of the regulations. They say if Georgians are not allowed to cross the border as usual, they will lose Georgian employees and customers.

“Since the regulations went into force, the number of Georgian customers has significantly reduced. We call on our government to change the regulations,” a Turkish shopkeeper stated.

In order to solve the problem, the Head of Georgia’s Adjara government, Zurab Pataradze, left for Turkey and met the representatives of various structures.

“The Turkish side expressed readiness to cooperate in this field. In the near future, we will elaborate ways how to solve this problem,” he stated.

Georgia’s Minister of Internal Affairs, Giorgi Gakharia, had a phone conversation with his Turkish counterpart Süleyman Soylu, and the sides agreed to suspend the new regulations until consultations over the issue had taken place.

Turkey is one of the 99 countries where Georgian citizens can travel visa-free. Protocol “between the governments of Georgia and the Republic of Turkey on changes and amendments to the visa agreement of April 4, 1996” that took effect on 10 December, 2011, provides visa-free movement for Georgian citizens on the territory of Turkey during 90 days in a 180-day period.

Thea Morrison

18 January 2018 16:46