In Germany’s Dresden district of Friedrichstadt, a reception facility for asylum-seekers includes a large number of Georgians – a country seeking European Union and Nato membership. In fact, one in five of the 500 asylum applicants is Georgian.

According to authorities, the number of Georgian citizens applying for asylum in Germany started to increase in 2017, after Germany ruled that Georgian citizens no longer needed visas to enter the country.

As reported by Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, so far this year 2,976 applications were registered. Most of them, according to the Georgian embassy, are in the German states of Saxony in the east and North Rhine-Westphalia in the west.

And most are fleeing poverty. As such, not even 1% of Georgian asylum seekers are classed as legitimate refugees.

In order to speed up the processing of asylum applications made by Georgian citizens, the federal government wants to classify Georgia as a safe country of origin.

However, the Saxon Refugee Council is critical of refugees being deported to Georgia. Press spokesman Mark Gärtner describes the authorities’ actions as “ruthless.” As reported by DW, he says families are being torn apart and that children with disabilities are being returned to Georgia who cannot receive qualified medical care there. Gärtner does not regard the Georgian refugees as “economic migrants”. He says that the lack of qualified medical services in Georgia could pose a threat to life and therefore be regarded as a legitimate motive for fleeing the country.

As for the Georgian ambassador to Germany, Elguja Khokrishvili, he is quick to note that the vast majority of asylum applications submitted by Georgian citizens are unfounded. In a written statement to DW, he said that the Georgian government reacted immediately to the increase in the number of asylum seekers in some EU states after they abolished the visa requirement and came up with a package of legislative and practical countermeasures.

“These measures include an intensive and extensive information campaign, amendments to the law on criminal prosecution for aiding and abetting illegal migration and tighter controls on departure,” said the ambassador. The efforts had already produced positive results, he said: In some EU states, including Germany, the number of asylum applications had fallen significantly. “The figures from September, which show a 77.7% decrease compared to January 2018, are encouraging and give reason to hope that an improvement can be expected in the coming months,” Khokrishvili said.