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Georgia’s Migration Numbers Remain a Guessing Game

Applying for visas for study, work and business, Georgians stand in line at the Russian embassy in Tbilisi. (Photo: Vano Shlamov/AFP/Getty)

A lack of reliable data on Georgian migration trends could have a wide-ranging impact on Tbilisi’s ability to adapt government policies to changing population patterns, demographic and migration specialists say.

Currently, Georgia’s official migration statistics are based solely on the annual border traffic numbers collected by border police -- a figure that does not distinguish between the various reasons for travel. Officially, fewer than 200,000 Georgians – roughly 4.5 percent of the country’s population of 4.4 million -- live abroad. But independent demographers believe that the real number is much higher; with estimates ranging from 300,000 to over a million.

Without a clear sense of how many Georgians live abroad, questions exist about the true size of Georgia’s population, a number that impacts everything from voting lists to tax collection, commented Nino Tchkoidze, a national program officer for the International Organization for Migration in Tbilisi. “[S]tatistics give you a better understanding of what you control, what you run, how you run [it] and so on,” Tchkoidze said.

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Molly Corso is a freelance reporter based in Tbilisi.

Georgia’s Migration Numbers Remain a Guessing Game

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