Unlike emigration, immigration to Georgia is a relatively recent and small in scale phenomenon. The country attracts a diverse group of immigrants from a variety of countries that arrive for educational, work, business or family reunification purposes. Data on immigrant flows and stocks are collected by GeoStat and the Public Service Development Agency of Georgia (PSDA), but since current regulations do not require that citizens of more than 100 countries coming to Georgia even for relatively extended periods of time (e.g., up to 12 months) apply for residence permits or otherwise register, existing residence statistics only provide an estimate of the number of immigrants in the country.
In many societies, including traditional ones with little or no previous experience of immigration, attitudes towards immigrants are rarely welcoming. The findings of a few empirical studies on the subject suggest that Georgia is no exception. CRRC’s 2015 Caucasus Barometer survey tried to find out more about the dominant attitudes in Georgia towards immigrants, defined during the survey as foreigners that have stayed in the country for a period longer than three months. This blog post provides the results of preliminary analysis of CB 2015 findings on the topic.
Only about a third of the population claims to have had any form of contact with immigrants: 9% report they’ve been in contact with them “quite often”, and another 17% have been in contact with them, but not much. The majority of the population (72%) reports never having any contact with immigrants. Unsurprisingly, those living in the capital report interacting with immigrants more often, but even in Tbilisi, 64% reports never having communicated with them.
Irrespective of whether people have or have not had personal contact with immigrants, they are still able to report certain attitudes towards them. Only 9% could not answer the question, “How would you characterize your attitude towards the foreigners who come to Georgia and stay here for longer than three months?” As for the rest, a large majority (61%) describes their attitude as neutral, while 25% describe it as good and 5% as bad. Importantly, as is often the case (among many others, the French and Italian examples are rather convincing), the more people have been in contact with immigrants, the better attitudes they tend to report towards them.
Note: For the question, “Have you had any form of contact with foreigners in Georgia who have stayed here for longer than 3 months?” answer options “Yes, I’ve often been in contact with them” and “Yes, I’ve rarely been in contact with them” have been combined for this blog post, and answer option “Refuse to answer” (less than 1% of all answers) was excluded from the analysis. For the question, “How would you characterize your attitude towards foreigners who come to Georgia and stay here for longer than three months?” answer options “Very good” and “Good” have been combined and labeled as “Good”, while answer options “Very bad” and “Bad” have been combined and labeled as “Bad”. The answer option “Refuse to answer” (less than 1% of all answers) was excluded from the analysis.
Similarly, more of those who have been in contact with immigrants believe that foreigners will contribute to the economic development of Georgia.
As it is the case in many other countries, in Georgia direct interaction with immigrants seems to be one of the most important conditions determining attitudes towards them – however, a very small share of the population of Georgia report having had direct interaction with immigrants. On the one hand, this may indicate that despite the existing myth that lots of foreigners are in the country, their number is actually not that high. On the other hand, this also means that the attitudes of the majority of the population towards immigrants are based on indirect information, which may be inaccurate.
To find out more, visit CRRC’s online data analysis platform.