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A blog about economics in the South Caucasus.

Georgia Exporting Crime

Georgian crime is ravaging in Germany. On February 28th of last year, the Augsburger Allgemeine published an article titled “Police captures Georgian burglary gang”. On May 22nd, the police of Bavaria issued a press release titled “DNA proves Georgian burglars to be guilty”. On August 13th, an article in the Bietigheimer Zeitung was titled “Georgian burglars put behind bars”, mentioning that since 2010, “burglaries by Georgian perpetrators have increased dramatically”. On June 9th, the Südwest Rundfunk broadcasted a report about “Georgian gangs systematically exploiting political asylum”, and on September 15th, the Stuttgarter Nachrichten featured the headline “Georgian criminals receive high prison sentence”. On November 13th, the political magazine Focus featured an article “Georgian mafia brings burglary gangs disguised as refugees to Germany”, and on December 2nd, the Winnender Zeitung published a piece with the title “Georgian gangs go for a ‘burglary spree”. This is just a small selection of what one finds if one enters “Georgische Mafia”, “Georgische Banden” (Georgian gangs), or “Georgische Einbrecher” (Georgian burglars) at Google. In each month of the last year, there was a huge number of articles reporting about Georgian crime in Germany, often in local and regional newspapers. 

According to an internal 34-pages paper “Georgien und Eigentumskriminalität” (“Georgia and theft”) of the German federal police, which was written in the end of 2014 and was heavily cited in German media, just the shoplifting activities of Georgian organized crime in Germany has an annual volume of 250 million euro. The report claims that the “masterminds” of these activities are based in Georgia, sending “soldiers” to Germany, who are endowed with 5,000 euro and instructions how to apply for political asylum. The paper also states that on average, a Georgian burglar in Germany makes a prey of 500 euro per day. 

The phenomenon of Georgian crime abroad is not entirely new. Already in 2010, in the so-called Operation Java, which was led by the Spanish police, European law enforcers from 6 countries (Germany, Italy, France, Austria, Switzerland, and Spain) cracked down on Georgian mafia operating in Europe. 109 suspects were arrested (48 in Austria, 24 in Spain, 22 in Germany, 11 in Switzerland, and 4 in Italy), but the alleged head of the mafia ring, Lasha Shushanashvili, could escape.


POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES FOR ALL GEORGIANS

The widespread perception that Georgians are associated with gang crime, in particular burglary, carries danger in light of a surge of burglary cases in Germany since 2007 (when Romania and Bulgaria were admitted to the European Union). In 2014, more than 152,000 burglary cases were recorded by the police, while in 2007 this number still stood at 109,000, an increase by almost 40%. The percentage of burglary cases that are resolved by the police is traditionally very low – in the year 2014, in less than 16% of all cases the perpetrators were identified. The German police, which is largely helpless in view of this problem, began in the last year to give advice to people how they can secure their houses and apartments to make it more difficult for burglars to break in, and in the same vein, the government was discussing to free security upgrades from taxes. This, however, has not led the debate to calm down. To the contrary, such measures are widely seen as resignation of the police and the government, giving in to an apparently uncontrollable crime problem. The surging burglary numbers have also contributed to the dramatic fall of popularity of the enlargement of the European Union, which is blamed for removing borders to low-income countries in Eastern Europe and making it easy for people with bad intentions to immigrate. 

All of this is very unfortunate, as a small group is spoiling the reputation of the 99% of Georgians who are decent and law-abiding. More importantly, however, are the political consequences that may result. In the wake of the inflow of millions of refugees, right-wing parties are on the rise all over Europe, most notably in France, where the Front National became the second strongest party in the elections for the regional councils. In this political climate, which is dominated by agitation and polarization on immigration issues, national parliaments are supposed to approve the removal of visa restrictions with Georgia and Ukraine. To counter the right-wing parties, which in an opportune moment will stir up a discussion about these visa liberalizations (which so far has hardly set in), it will be very straightforward for the moderate parties to simply halt the liberalization process. For that to happen, one does not even have to cancel it formally. It would be enough to postpone the ratification of the new visa regime.


WHAT CAN BE DONE?

If one is sympathetic with Saakashvili’s government, one may argue that he locked up all the delinquents (and, as even supporters of Saakashvili may admit, many non-delinquents). In this way he prevented them from carrying out criminal activities abroad. The Georgian Dream government then granted generous amnesties whose beneficiaries may have decided to continue their criminal careers not in Georgia, where they were already branded by their previous convictions, but in Europe, where also the conditions in the prisons are not that harsh. This viewpoint, however, is not compatible with the observation that the surge of Georgian crime in Germany started already in 2010, i.e. before the Georgian Dream government came to power and granted its amnesties. 

An alternative explanation would be that because of Saakashvili’s strict policies perpetrators did not see a future for their “careers” in Georgia and therefore decided to move abroad. Then the amnesties were not to blame. 

One may also argue, however, that it does not matter how Georgia treats its criminals. Be it strict or lenient, if it is true that a burglar in Germany can make 500 euros per day, it is simply much more lucrative to pursue one’s criminal activities in Germany instead of Georgia. 

Because it is unclear which of these explanations applies, it would be wrong to reverse the amnesty policies or to tighten the criminal code again. Rather, similar to many Western countries which prevent Muslim extremists to travel to Syria, somebody who has a criminal record, be it domestic or foreign, should not be allowed to travel abroad. Unlike Europe, Georgia still has control over its borders, and while entering Europe illegally is very easy (one just has to join the refugee flow), Georgia might make it difficult for problematic persons to leave the country. One possibility is to simply confiscate the passports of such people. This could be done temporarily, e.g. for 5 years after the criminal conviction. 

Another step may be to let Georgians who were sentenced in Europe serve their terms not in European but in Georgian prisons. This would have to be agreed on with Western European governments, but it could be done, as it would be in everybody’s but the perpetrator’s interests. While European prisons are often considered comfortable by its inmates, this is arguably not the case in Georgia. One might even consider to let some of the court trials with Georgian defendants not take place in Europe but in Georgia, according to the Georgian criminal code, which by European standards is very strict. This would reduce the incentives to become a criminal abroad, where both the prey is higher and the consequences are less severe.  

I think that the matter should be proactively addressed by the government of Georgia to make sure that the visa liberalization is not cancelled in the last moment. It would be an utter disappointment for the Georgian people, who enthusiastically celebrated the upcoming visa liberalization by illuminating bridges and buildings in blue color with golden stars.

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Eric Livny on Sunday, 31 January 2016 18:43

One factor, not mention in the article, is corruption in the consular services of individual EU countries. I have FIRST-HAND evidence of such corruption in the French embassy in Tbilisi. A former Saakashvili era convict (a mafia "arbiter" or "thief-in-law"), released as part of the GD amnesty in 2012, bought his French visa for 3,000 Euro (through an intermediary). He claimed (and received) refugee status the moment he landed in France. His wife and daughter also paid 3,000 Euro for their visas and joined him there a year later. While this particular guy is not engaged in any criminal activities (to the best of my knowledge), many others are, leading to a surge in criminal activities everywhere in the EU.

One factor, not mention in the article, is corruption in the consular services of individual EU countries. I have FIRST-HAND evidence of such corruption in the French embassy in Tbilisi. A former Saakashvili era convict (a mafia "arbiter" or "thief-in-law"), released as part of the GD amnesty in 2012, bought his French visa for 3,000 Euro (through an intermediary). He claimed (and received) refugee status the moment he landed in France. His wife and daughter also paid 3,000 Euro for their visas and joined him there a year later. While this particular guy is not engaged in any criminal activities (to the best of my knowledge), many others are, leading to a surge in criminal activities everywhere in the EU.
Florian Biermann on Sunday, 31 January 2016 20:38

Very interesting remark!

(1) That one case, which is of course only an individual case, would support the idea that the reason why those amnesties did not have had such a great impact on the crime rate in Georgia was that many of those released from prison moved abroad, even if this particular guy is not engaged in criminal activities (which is of course difficult to know, as he would not tell you). You say yourself that many others are.

(2) I find it outrageous that there is corruption in the consular services of EU countries. I heard similar rumors about the US. We absolutely do not need Georgian "thieves-in-law" in the EU!! Moreover, it is extremely unfair towards law-abiding Georgians who are often treated very dismissively by EU consulate staff, and who have to come up with all kinds of proofs that they want to return etc. While goodwilled people are squeezed, mafia guys can enter. Unbelieveable! As already mentioned in the article, it is also very bad for the reputation of the 99% of decent Georgians if these elements move to Europe.

It should not be too difficult to check whether a visa was handed out legitimately or not, as there are relatively clear criteria for issuing visas. One could go through the visa decisions of the last 5 years and see whether there is something fishy. I am wondering whether somebody from the French embassy might be reading this and takes action.

I know the head of the consulate of another EU embassy and meet him sometimes at receptions. Next time, I will ask him whether there are any such possibilities with his consulate and what the consulate does to prevent corruption.



Very interesting remark! (1) That one case, which is of course only an individual case, would support the idea that the reason why those amnesties did not have had such a great impact on the crime rate in Georgia was that many of those released from prison moved abroad, even if this particular guy is not engaged in criminal activities (which is of course difficult to know, as he would not tell you). You say yourself that many others are. (2) I find it outrageous that there is corruption in the consular services of EU countries. I heard similar rumors about the US. We absolutely do not need Georgian "thieves-in-law" in the EU!! Moreover, it is extremely unfair towards law-abiding Georgians who are often treated very dismissively by EU consulate staff, and who have to come up with all kinds of proofs that they want to return etc. While goodwilled people are squeezed, mafia guys can enter. Unbelieveable! As already mentioned in the article, it is also very bad for the reputation of the 99% of decent Georgians if these elements move to Europe. It should not be too difficult to check whether a visa was handed out legitimately or not, as there are relatively clear criteria for issuing visas. One could go through the visa decisions of the last 5 years and see whether there is something fishy. I am wondering whether somebody from the French embassy might be reading this and takes action. I know the head of the consulate of another EU embassy and meet him sometimes at receptions. Next time, I will ask him whether there are any such possibilities with his consulate and what the consulate does to prevent corruption.
Florian Biermann on Monday, 01 February 2016 13:39

Lasha, we all know that are lots of other ethnic mafias in Europe. However, I did not want to write about mafia in general. This article intends to raise the issue of the Georgian mafia abroad in a Georgian media outlet so as to raise the awareness of this issue. I think that many Georgians are not aware of the importance of the problem.

It is just a matter of fact that Georgians are frequently associated with this burglary problem, which is getting a lot of media attention since 2014. Of course, just a (possibly small) share of the 150,000 burglary cases in 2015 are to be attributed to Georgians, and I did not want to suggest otherwise when I wrote: "The widespread perception that Georgians are associated with gang crime, in particular burglary, carries danger in light of a surge of burglary cases in Germany". This does not say or suggest that the Georgian mafia is solely responsible for the increase in burglary cases, does it?

Regarding your last question: yes, I absolutely believe that there is a high risk that the visa liberalization will be stopped later this year. I already thought so when there were these celebrations here in Tbilisi and warned my friends that it is too early to be enthusiastic.

You argue that because in Europe they have so many problems with the refugees, they won't bother about the visa regulations with Georgia. That is one possibility, but in my view it is more likely that because of the many problems with immigrants right now, there will be no willingness to remove immigration restrictions with further Eastern European countries. So far, the visa liberalization topic has been a short note on the fifth page of newspapers, but when it really comes to ratification, right-wing parties would miss a chance if they would not exploit it politically. And, unlike allowing immigration from Muslim countries, which is a heart-felt issue for many European left-wingers, lifting visa restrictions for Georgians is probably not a topic they would fight for. To the contrary, they could use this as a cheap way to appease the right-wingers.

The admission of Romania and Bulgaria was mentioned many times in the debate on burglary, and the EU was slammed by right-wingers that they exposed their citizens to Eastern European crime. I would be surprised if a similar debate would not re-emerge with Georgia and Ukraine.

Left-wing and moderate politicians are under enormous pressure at the moment. If, say, Geert Wilders in Holland, who is chasing the established politics, would make a fuss about the upcoming visa liberalizations (and I do not see why he wouldn't exploit this), it would be the most straightforward thing to do for the Dutch government to simply not ratify the agreement.

(As a side aspect: I clearly think that Georgians are treated unfairly in this regard. In my investigations, I found several quotes by police officials and politicians who said that "Georgians only ask for political asylum so that they can commit crimes while their application is processed" (paraphrased). This is highly generalizing and stereotyping. There would be an outcry if anybody would say that "Muslims only apply for political asylum because they want to harass women in Europe". Yet, if it is about Georgians, different standards apply. These double-standards, which not only apply to Georgians, are one of the many problematic aspects of political correctness. What you are allowed to say about Georgians, you are not allowed to say e.g. about Muslims.)

Lasha, we all know that are lots of other ethnic mafias in Europe. However, I did not want to write about mafia in general. This article intends to raise the issue of the Georgian mafia abroad in a Georgian media outlet so as to raise the awareness of this issue. I think that many Georgians are not aware of the importance of the problem. It is just a matter of fact that Georgians are frequently associated with this burglary problem, which is getting a lot of media attention since 2014. Of course, just a (possibly small) share of the 150,000 burglary cases in 2015 are to be attributed to Georgians, and I did not want to suggest otherwise when I wrote: "The widespread perception that Georgians are associated with gang crime, in particular burglary, carries danger in light of a surge of burglary cases in Germany". This does not say or suggest that the Georgian mafia is solely responsible for the increase in burglary cases, does it? Regarding your last question: yes, I absolutely believe that there is a high risk that the visa liberalization will be stopped later this year. I already thought so when there were these celebrations here in Tbilisi and warned my friends that it is too early to be enthusiastic. You argue that because in Europe they have so many problems with the refugees, they won't bother about the visa regulations with Georgia. That is one possibility, but in my view it is more likely that [i]because[/i] of the many problems with immigrants right now, there will be no willingness to remove immigration restrictions with further Eastern European countries. So far, the visa liberalization topic has been a short note on the fifth page of newspapers, but when it really comes to ratification, right-wing parties would miss a chance if they would not exploit it politically. And, unlike allowing immigration from Muslim countries, which is a heart-felt issue for many European left-wingers, lifting visa restrictions for Georgians is probably not a topic they would fight for. To the contrary, they could use this as a cheap way to appease the right-wingers. The admission of Romania and Bulgaria was mentioned many times in the debate on burglary, and the EU was slammed by right-wingers that they exposed their citizens to Eastern European crime. I would be surprised if a similar debate would not re-emerge with Georgia and Ukraine. Left-wing and moderate politicians are under enormous pressure at the moment. If, say, Geert Wilders in Holland, who is chasing the established politics, would make a fuss about the upcoming visa liberalizations (and I do not see why he wouldn't exploit this), it would be the most straightforward thing to do for the Dutch government to simply not ratify the agreement. (As a side aspect: I clearly think that Georgians are treated unfairly in this regard. In my investigations, I found several quotes by police officials and politicians who said that "Georgians only ask for political asylum so that they can commit crimes while their application is processed" (paraphrased). This is highly generalizing and stereotyping. There would be an outcry if anybody would say that "Muslims only apply for political asylum because they want to harass women in Europe". Yet, if it is about Georgians, different standards apply. These double-standards, which not only apply to Georgians, are one of the many problematic aspects of political correctness. What you are allowed to say about Georgians, you are not allowed to say e.g. about Muslims.)
Hans Gutbrod on Monday, 01 February 2016 15:34

aFirst, thanks for highlighting this issue. I think it's important for people that love Georgia to recognize that this is a real issue. (In 2008, for example, more than 10% of the Austrian prison population were Georgians.) When I try and advocate for Georgia being a great place, the reaction I often get is specific on these burglary gangs. It's right, that this isn't just restricted to Georgia, but unfortunately Georgia regularly turns up in the local news in that way, so it colours the image (and because people have little other contact with Georgia, it can damage the brand).

I think it's also important to recognize that burglaries are a substantive concern of middle classes around Germany. (The current CDU election campaign in Baden-Württemberg is all around "Sicherheit"/security.) Among the people I know, the burglaries turn up as a topic of conversation once or twice a week, and practically everybody I know who lives in a separate house has had burglaries happen in the neighbourhood. People are getting dogs specifically for that purpose, of guarding. (I've also been asked by Georgian friends to keep my own address in Germany very private in social networks, as they worry about exposure.)

Note, also, that the burglaries are typically seen more as a psychological rather than violent threat. Burglars try to avoid encounters at all cost, typically flee at the first sound of human presence, primarily take cash, and by now often don't take Apple devices, since these can be tracked more easily. But people are still spooked.

I like the suggestions you put forward, especially turning Georgian prisoners over to Georgian prisons, and longer terms. I think the issue needs to be addressed, otherwise, as you say, visa liberalization could well be tossed out, to appease right wing sentiment, that responds to the sense of insecurity.

An additional suggestion, that would send a very strong signal, is if people in Georgia that give information that leads to an arrest/conviction of Georgian citizens in the European Union could collect a handsome reward.

Georgian society is fairly tight knit, and people often know what their neighbours, or relatives, are doing abroad. I definitely have heard stories where people tell me that the neighbours went to Frankfurt, and worked there as petty criminals for a while, and so forth. This is openly talked about, at least in some places that I am familiar with. Making criminal activity abroad much more risky, by tapping into those social networks, would help to increase the uncertainty, especially for organized gangs.

Putting some such reward system into place would also send a very powerful signal that Georgia is a partner, in tackling crime of Georgian citizens abroad. One upside would be that the reward money wouldn't even need to be so high. If such a hotline or system is put into place, it would need to be administered well, so that people feel confident sharing their insights – and also to make sure that the system isn't abused to settle a score, harm a former girlfriend and the like. That should be doable.

In that way, prices & rewards could send multiple signals – and hopefully encourage the handful of criminals who currently damage Georgia's international reputation to seek a more legitimate source of income. All of Georgia would stand to benefit.

aFirst, thanks for highlighting this issue. I think it's important for people that love Georgia to recognize that this is a real issue. (In 2008, for example, more than 10% of the Austrian prison population were Georgians.) When I try and advocate for Georgia being a great place, the reaction I often get is specific on these burglary gangs. It's right, that this isn't just restricted to Georgia, but unfortunately Georgia regularly turns up in the local news in that way, so it colours the image (and because people have little other contact with Georgia, it can damage the brand). I think it's also important to recognize that burglaries are a substantive concern of middle classes around Germany. (The current CDU election campaign in Baden-Württemberg is all around "Sicherheit"/security.) Among the people I know, the burglaries turn up as a topic of conversation once or twice a week, and practically everybody I know who lives in a separate house has had burglaries happen in the neighbourhood. People are getting dogs specifically for that purpose, of guarding. (I've also been asked by Georgian friends to keep my own address in Germany very private in social networks, as they worry about exposure.) Note, also, that the burglaries are typically seen more as a psychological rather than violent threat. Burglars try to avoid encounters at all cost, typically flee at the first sound of human presence, primarily take cash, and by now often don't take Apple devices, since these can be tracked more easily. But people are still spooked. I like the suggestions you put forward, especially turning Georgian prisoners over to Georgian prisons, and longer terms. I think the issue needs to be addressed, otherwise, as you say, visa liberalization could well be tossed out, to appease right wing sentiment, that responds to the sense of insecurity. An additional suggestion, that would send a very strong signal, is if people in Georgia that give information that leads to an arrest/conviction of Georgian citizens in the European Union could collect a handsome reward. Georgian society is fairly tight knit, and people often know what their neighbours, or relatives, are doing abroad. I definitely have heard stories where people tell me that the neighbours went to Frankfurt, and worked there as petty criminals for a while, and so forth. This is openly talked about, at least in some places that I am familiar with. Making criminal activity abroad much more risky, by tapping into those social networks, would help to increase the uncertainty, especially for organized gangs. Putting some such reward system into place would also send a very powerful signal that Georgia is a partner, in tackling crime of Georgian citizens abroad. One upside would be that the reward money wouldn't even need to be so high. If such a hotline or system is put into place, it would need to be administered well, so that people feel confident sharing their insights – and also to make sure that the system isn't abused to settle a score, harm a former girlfriend and the like. That should be doable. In that way, prices & rewards could send multiple signals – and hopefully encourage the handful of criminals who currently damage Georgia's international reputation to seek a more legitimate source of income. All of Georgia would stand to benefit.
Florian Biermann on Monday, 01 February 2016 21:19

Lasha, you argue that my perception of the public perception may be biased. Perhaps. I just can say that I could have made a much longer list of media reports. My media survey was created very quickly, in a few minutes, covering just a small fraction of what one can find on this topic on the internet. In my view, the perception that Georgia is a source of burglary crime is widespread, and I was personally confronted with it two times just in the last year, when people asked me about this topic. However, I agree that one can have different opinions on what are the facts on this matter, as a perception is a somewhat vague term.

Regarding the first statistic that you cite, it refers to the number of suspects. 2.11% were Georgian, but Hans spoke about the prison population, which are a subset of the suspects who were sentenced for serious crimes. In the data you provide, the Germans take the first place with 12.4% of all suspects. However, as I read in an article on the topic, the Germans are mostly convicted for traffic transgressions (http://diepresse.com/home/panorama/integration/609011/Das-Phantom-des-kriminellen-Auslaenders). Therefore, these numbers do not say that much, because the kind of crime is of course important.

The second link I cannot open, and when I go to the statcube website, I cannot find the information you mention (in any case, convicts are not the same as prison inmates). I searched a bit regarding the composition of prison population in Austria but could not find data by citizenship for 2008. This article, however, claims that in 2006, 10% of the prison population in the Wien-Neustadt prison had Georgian nationality: https://sicherheitwien.wordpress.com/2006/09/24/georgien-mafia-ausgehoben-knapp-1-000-einbrueche-in-ganz-oesterreich/ . I am not sure about the reliability of the source though and I agree that one has to be careful not to nurture rumors.

Lasha, you argue that my perception of the public perception may be biased. Perhaps. I just can say that I could have made a much longer list of media reports. My media survey was created very quickly, in a few minutes, covering just a small fraction of what one can find on this topic on the internet. In my view, the perception that Georgia is a source of burglary crime is widespread, and I was personally confronted with it two times just in the last year, when people asked me about this topic. However, I agree that one can have different opinions on what are the facts on this matter, as a [i]perception[/i] is a somewhat vague term. Regarding the first statistic that you cite, it refers to the number of suspects. 2.11% were Georgian, but Hans spoke about the prison population, which are a subset of the suspects who were sentenced for serious crimes. In the data you provide, the Germans take the first place with 12.4% of all suspects. However, as I read in an article on the topic, the Germans are mostly convicted for traffic transgressions (http://diepresse.com/home/panorama/integration/609011/Das-Phantom-des-kriminellen-Auslaenders). Therefore, these numbers do not say that much, because the [i]kind[/i] of crime is of course important. The second link I cannot open, and when I go to the statcube website, I cannot find the information you mention (in any case, convicts are not the same as prison inmates). I searched a bit regarding the composition of prison population in Austria but could not find data by citizenship for 2008. This article, however, claims that in 2006, 10% of the prison population in the Wien-Neustadt prison had Georgian nationality: https://sicherheitwien.wordpress.com/2006/09/24/georgien-mafia-ausgehoben-knapp-1-000-einbrueche-in-ganz-oesterreich/ . I am not sure about the reliability of the source though and I agree that one has to be careful not to nurture rumors.
Hans Gutbrod on Monday, 01 February 2016 22:54

Lasha, I don't like it anymore than you do, believe me, but what I told you about in terms of the imagery is a substantive problem – which is why the policy question is how to address it. Essentially a handful of people are causing an image problem for an entire country. I think it's dangerous to dismiss this as hype, or a misunderstanding. Try Google auto complete, as one of the tests.

Note that Florian didn't say (nor did I) that "Georgians are the utmost security threat". Of course they aren't. Faulty light bulbs likely are a larger security threat. As I pointed out, the burglaries are typically "light". But it's still an image problem, and it's recently been in many newspapers, including in local newspapers where I previously never saw such a mention.

It's also a problem that I feel, as an exporter. Just last week I talked with a fruit dealer, and got a negative and even dismissive response when I mentioned Georgia ("oh, so Georgia actually *produces* something?", said in a sarcastic tone). So I may have as much riding on a good image of Georgia, personally, as Georgians themselves, and get personally insulted by an image that's not great.

As for the prisoners in Austria, I repeatedly was given that number by the Austrian police attachee, back in 2008. Austria specifically sent the police attachee to Georgia, to repatriate prisoners, etc., before opening an Embassy. (The office is behind the Marriott Courtyard, in case you want to check.) If indeed the numbers declined in the meantime, that's great. If maybe he misspoke, also good.

Speaking of numbers, here is what a quick Internet search turns up, in terms of the increase of crimes identified with Georgians, and this is for one Land of Germany, out of more than a dozen. Presumably we can agree that there's an increase on the figures.

http://snag.gy/B1agE.jpg

Source: German FBI warns of Georgian Gangs Systematically Using Asylum Procedure http://www.swr.de/zur-sache-rheinland-pfalz/bka-und-lka-warnen-georgische-banden-nutzen-systematisch-asylverfahren-aus/-/id=7446566/did=15466704/nid=7446566/fvl9hx/

And if we agree that there is an increase, we presumably would (a) want to stop it from increasing further (b) think about what specifically can be done to minimize the impact, and especially the risks regarding visa liberalization. I'd be curious on your thoughts on the policy measures.

Lasha, I don't like it anymore than you do, believe me, but what I told you about in terms of the imagery is a substantive problem – which is why the policy question is how to address it. Essentially a handful of people are causing an image problem for an entire country. I think it's dangerous to dismiss this as hype, or a misunderstanding. Try Google auto complete, as one of the tests. Note that Florian didn't say (nor did I) that "Georgians are the utmost security threat". Of course they aren't. Faulty light bulbs likely are a larger security threat. As I pointed out, the burglaries are typically "light". But it's still an image problem, and it's recently been in many newspapers, including in local newspapers where I previously never saw such a mention. It's also a problem that I feel, as an exporter. Just last week I talked with a fruit dealer, and got a negative and even dismissive response when I mentioned Georgia ("oh, so Georgia actually *produces* something?", said in a sarcastic tone). So I may have as much riding on a good image of Georgia, personally, as Georgians themselves, and get personally insulted by an image that's not great. As for the prisoners in Austria, I repeatedly was given that number by the Austrian police attachee, back in 2008. Austria specifically sent the police attachee to Georgia, to repatriate prisoners, etc., before opening an Embassy. (The office is behind the Marriott Courtyard, in case you want to check.) If indeed the numbers declined in the meantime, that's great. If maybe he misspoke, also good. Speaking of numbers, here is what a quick Internet search turns up, in terms of the increase of crimes identified with Georgians, and this is for one Land of Germany, out of more than a dozen. Presumably we can agree that there's an increase on the figures. [img]http://snag.gy/B1agE.jpg[/img] Source: German FBI warns of Georgian Gangs Systematically Using Asylum Procedure http://www.swr.de/zur-sache-rheinland-pfalz/bka-und-lka-warnen-georgische-banden-nutzen-systematisch-asylverfahren-aus/-/id=7446566/did=15466704/nid=7446566/fvl9hx/ And if we agree that there is an increase, we presumably would (a) want to stop it from increasing further (b) think about what specifically can be done to minimize the impact, and especially the risks regarding visa liberalization. I'd be curious on your thoughts on the policy measures.
Hans Gutbrod on Tuesday, 02 February 2016 17:58

Lasha, I can see that you might take issue with the first sentence of the blogpost, which arguably could have added something on perceptions.

In terms of what I said, I certainly did not make a point about the relative market share of Georgian criminals. That just isn't the argument. Of course there are going to be way more German criminals in Germany, and white collar criminals steal way more than burglars ever do, and so on and so forth.

The argument is that there is relatively little exposure and positive public news on Georgia (obviously, also given its population size). The kind of news that Georgia is getting right now is bad news – about an increase in crime. The chart I posted is crystal clear on that, and in national news Georgians are typically mentioned on the top spots in terms of burlaries, this also by pro-immigration & pro-refugee left-leaning German politicians. http://bit.ly/Gall_Crime

The report you cite only focuses on organized crime, but even this very report has the following passage:

The most significant increase in the number of newly identified suspects saw the Romanian nationals (approx. +216 %) and the Georgian nationals (approx. +203 %).

I think this amply demonstrates the point that Florian and I were making, that there is an increase, this increase is visible, unfortunately it's bad news for Georgia (and Romania), and it may even be bad news for an issue that really matters to many thousands of Georgians visa liberalization.

So let me bring this back to the major question: what do you propose as policy measures?

Lasha, I can see that you might take issue with the first sentence of the blogpost, which arguably could have added something on perceptions. In terms of what I said, I certainly did not make a point about the relative market share of Georgian criminals. That just isn't the argument. Of course there are going to be way more German criminals in Germany, and white collar criminals steal way more than burglars ever do, and so on and so forth. The argument is that there is relatively little exposure and positive public news on Georgia (obviously, also given its population size). The kind of news that Georgia is getting right now is bad news – about an increase in crime. The chart I posted is crystal clear on that, and in national news Georgians are typically mentioned on the top spots in terms of burlaries, this also by pro-immigration & pro-refugee left-leaning German politicians. http://bit.ly/Gall_Crime The report you cite only focuses on organized crime, but even this very report has the following passage: The most significant increase in the number of newly identified suspects saw the Romanian nationals (approx. +216 %) and the Georgian nationals (approx. +203 %). I think this amply demonstrates the point that Florian and I were making, that there is an increase, this increase is visible, unfortunately it's bad news for Georgia (and Romania), and it may even be bad news for an issue that really matters to many thousands of Georgians visa liberalization. So let me bring this back to the major question: what do you propose as policy measures?
Hans Gutbrod on Tuesday, 02 February 2016 20:52

Lasha, fine, You don't seem to think there is a problem. For that, you quote selective data, from a single report focusing just on "Organized Crime". You ignore the data we present, that in a single Land in Germany more than a 1000 crimes have been comitted by Georgians in 2014, and belittle the issue by saying "how to catch 20 criminals". You seem to think that as Albanians are worse,

You clearly haven't checked my link, since I referred to Interior Minister Reinhold Gall from Baden-Württemberg, not de Maziere.

You use insinuation (Donald Trump), when we try to highlight there is a policy issue that could imperil visa liberalization in a fraught political climate.

Sure, that's an approach one can take. It is, however, disrespectful to the people who try to highlight an important issue. It also has little to do with a serious approach to policy.

Lasha, fine, You don't seem to think there is a problem. For that, you quote selective data, from a single report focusing just on "Organized Crime". You ignore the data we present, that in a single Land in Germany more than a 1000 crimes have been comitted by Georgians in 2014, and belittle the issue by saying "how to catch 20 criminals". You seem to think that as Albanians are worse, You clearly haven't checked my link, since I referred to Interior Minister Reinhold Gall from Baden-Württemberg, not de Maziere. You use insinuation (Donald Trump), when we try to highlight there is a policy issue that could imperil visa liberalization in a fraught political climate. Sure, that's an approach one can take. It is, however, disrespectful to the people who try to highlight an important issue. It also has little to do with a serious approach to policy.
Eric Livny on Tuesday, 02 February 2016 21:17

I've read the entire string of comments, and am having a hard time understanding what is the issue. Seems you agree on everything and yet you completely disagree.
Crime by Georgian nationals is on the rise (especially after 2012, according to one chart)
The absolute number and share of crimes by Georgian nationals in the total is still quite insignificant, no matter how you look at it.
There are many more criminals from Albania, Romania, etc., that is countries that are part of the Schengen zone.
Some media are clearly blowing things out of proportion, since this how they get readers to read their stuff
Is this an image problem for Georgia? Yes
Is there something Georgia can do about it? Perhaps


I've read the entire string of comments, and am having a hard time understanding what is the issue. Seems you agree on everything and yet you completely disagree. Crime by Georgian nationals is on the rise (especially after 2012, according to one chart) The absolute number and share of crimes by Georgian nationals in the total is still quite insignificant, no matter how you look at it. There are many more criminals from Albania, Romania, etc., that is countries that are part of the Schengen zone. Some media are clearly blowing things out of proportion, since this how they get readers to read their stuff Is this an image problem for Georgia? Yes Is there something Georgia can do about it? Perhaps
Hans Gutbrod on Tuesday, 02 February 2016 21:34

Eric, fully agree. Exactly. it is a (big) image problem. I would be curious to hear whether people have more ideas on how to (potentially) address it.

Eric, fully agree. Exactly. it is a (big) image problem. I would be curious to hear whether people have more ideas on how to (potentially) address it.
Pati Mamardashvili on Wednesday, 03 February 2016 13:03

Although I agree with the points of the author I still find this article offensive.
Truth is often offensive, particularly when a problem can hardly be remedied.
I think the discussions on this article are partly driven by emotions (I mean Lasha).
But emotions are natural. During my time in Switzerland, I was very much upset whenever somebody shared with me a news about Georgian criminals (around 2013 Georgian Mafia was quite active in Geneva). Not knowing how to respond, once I even said something as stupid as it sounds: We (Georgians) are good at everything, even at this. So, you see where emotions might bring us

Yes, I am also looking forward to hearing more about possible policy measures.

Although I agree with the points of the author I still find this article offensive. Truth is often offensive, particularly when a problem can hardly be remedied. I think the discussions on this article are partly driven by emotions (I mean Lasha). But emotions are natural. During my time in Switzerland, I was very much upset whenever somebody shared with me a news about Georgian criminals (around 2013 Georgian Mafia was quite active in Geneva). Not knowing how to respond, once I even said something as stupid as it sounds: We (Georgians) are good at everything, even at this. So, you see where emotions might bring us Yes, I am also looking forward to hearing more about possible policy measures.
Florian Biermann on Tuesday, 09 February 2016 23:26
Just a week ago: http://www.ardmediathek.de/tv/REPORT-MAINZ/Wie-georgische-Einbrecherbanden-das-Asyl/Das-Erste/Video?documentId=33155742&bcastId=310120
Florian Biermann on Wednesday, 10 February 2016 10:46

Pati, the problem is indeed that a small group of thugs is putting the whole Georgian population under a cloud. However, not talking about it does not solve the problem. Only if there is an open debate, one can think about countermeasures, and there are things one can do about it. Four ideas were mentioned in the article and by Hans. Most importantly, there should be zero tolerance in the Georgian population for people who are known to make money abroad with fiddles.

If I were you, confronted with allegations that relate to your group membership, something for which you do not bear any responsibility, the most effective reaction is in my opinion to admit that some group members are thugs. This does not mean that you accept any individual responsibility for their deeds.

The Germans apply this strategy since 70 years very effectively with enormous success, but nobody learns this lesson. For example, the Turks could learn from it in their struggle with the Armenians. Likewise, criticism of Islam would be much milder if Muslims would be willing to accept that there are flaws in their religion instead of countlessly repeating that Islam is a religion of peace. This religion of peace language and an exceptional lack of self-criticism is exactly what causes sentiments to turn against Muslims.

On the other hand, you immediately gain the sympathy of everybody if you acknowledge problems, even more so if these are problems you are not personally responsible for.

Wilhelm Busch had already understood the power of self-criticism in the 19th century:

To criticize yourself is smart.
Say, I would scold myself to start:
this brings me, first, the real gain
that I'm a very modest man;
for, second, who would not agree
that I am full of honesty;
besides, and third, I snatch the prey
away from what the critics say;
and, fourth, I hope the crowd presents
some forceful counterarguments.
So, in the end, my little rap
makes me the most admired chap!

The original German:
Die Selbstkritik hat viel für sich.
Gesetzt den Fall, ich tadle mich,
So hab ich erstens den Gewinn,
Daß ich so hübsch bescheiden bin;
Zum zweiten denken sich die Leut,
Der Mann ist lauter Redlichkeit;
Auch schnapp ich drittens diesen Bissen
Vorweg den andern Kritiküssen;
Und viertens hoff ich außerdem
Auf Widerspruch, der mir genehm.
So kommt es denn zuletzt heraus,
Daß ich ein ganz famoses Haus.

Pati, the problem is indeed that a small group of thugs is putting the whole Georgian population under a cloud. However, not talking about it does not solve the problem. Only if there is an open debate, one can think about countermeasures, and there are things one can do about it. Four ideas were mentioned in the article and by Hans. Most importantly, there should be zero tolerance in the Georgian population for people who are known to make money abroad with fiddles. If I were you, confronted with allegations that relate to your group membership, something for which you do not bear any responsibility, the most effective reaction is in my opinion to admit that some group members are thugs. This does not mean that you accept any individual responsibility for their deeds. The Germans apply this strategy since 70 years very effectively with enormous success, but nobody learns this lesson. For example, the Turks could learn from it in their struggle with the Armenians. Likewise, criticism of Islam would be much milder if Muslims would be willing to accept that there are flaws in their religion instead of countlessly repeating that Islam is a religion of peace. This religion of peace language and an exceptional lack of self-criticism is exactly what causes sentiments to turn against Muslims. On the other hand, you immediately gain the sympathy of everybody if you acknowledge problems, even more so if these are problems you are not personally responsible for. Wilhelm Busch had already understood the power of self-criticism in the 19th century: To criticize yourself is smart. Say, I would scold myself to start: this brings me, first, the real gain that I'm a very modest man; for, second, who would not agree that I am full of honesty; besides, and third, I snatch the prey away from what the critics say; and, fourth, I hope the crowd presents some forceful counterarguments. So, in the end, my little rap makes me the most admired chap! The original German: Die Selbstkritik hat viel für sich. Gesetzt den Fall, ich tadle mich, So hab ich erstens den Gewinn, Daß ich so hübsch bescheiden bin; Zum zweiten denken sich die Leut, Der Mann ist lauter Redlichkeit; Auch schnapp ich drittens diesen Bissen Vorweg den andern Kritiküssen; Und viertens hoff ich außerdem Auf Widerspruch, der mir genehm. So kommt es denn zuletzt heraus, Daß ich ein ganz famoses Haus.
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