Israel is About to Make a Solomon’s Judgment about Georgian Laborers
Friday, 30 March, 2018

According to NBG, the volume of total remittances to Georgia amounted to 1,379 million USD in 2017, a 19.8% YoY increase. The recovery of remittances is a clear sign that the economies of Georgia’s partner countries continue to improve. All top source countries of money inflows to Georgia showed a notable increase: Russia (+15.4% YoY), Italy (+17.9% YoY), the United States (+11.2% YoY), and Greece (+13.4% YoY).

Money inflows from Israel showed unprecedented annual growth of 96.1%. This stemmed from the wave of Georgian emigration that started after the countries ratified a visa-free regime in November 2013. Georgian citizens are allowed to stay in Israel without a visa for a maximum of 90 days in any six-month period. In that year only four Georgian citizens sought asylum in Israel, whereas in 2015 the number was more than 700, and about 6,000 in the following year. However, the situation has recently changed. First, there has been an increase in the number of Georgian citizens denied entry to Israel at the border. Secondly, in February 2017 the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Israel recognized Georgia as “a safe country”.

From April 2017, “applications of Georgian citizens, applying to the Israeli Population and Migration Service for political asylum, will be considered in an extremely expedited manner. If an application is rejected, the State of Israel will immediately begin the deportation (forcible removal) procedures.” Nevertheless, Georgians continue to seek asylum in Israel or stayed there illegally after finding it to be an outstanding country in which to work and send money back to their homeland. Israel overtook Turkey to become the fifth-biggest source of money inflows from Georgia in 2017.

On other hand, recently founder and chair of Israeli house, Itsik Moshe announced that “Soon we will have a pilot plan where people will be able to go to work in Israel without paying fees. We are against the rule, people get a work permit as a result of paying, it must be disinterested. As for work visas, if this pilot plan is settled and becomes successful, Georgian citizens will be able to work in Israel officially and for free. Israel needs a lot of staff in the construction, agriculture fields. It takes both governments’ active involvement to enable the process”.

If this plan goes through, it will be good news both for Georgia and for Israel. Israel will gain the tax revenue otherwise it loses to undocumented work. For Georgian construction and seasonal workers, this will be a one-of-a-kind “on-the-job” training. Once these workers return to Georgia, they will be coming with new skills and perhaps the knowledge of an extra language or two!

We can observe the same dynamics in emigration from Georgia to EU countries after visa liberalization in March 2017 as about 200, 000 Georgians enjoyed visiting the Schengen zone visa-free and about 6% of them stayed there illegally, while the number of asylum seekers continue to increase, mainly in Germany, Sweden and Iceland. Unfortunately, there are currently no plans to accommodate seasonal workers from Georgia in the EU legally.