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Closer cooperation Swiss seek to reduce immigration from Georgia

Medical room in an asylum centre

Many Georgian asylum seekers have severe health problems according to the Swiss authorities.

(© Keystone/Anthony Anex)

Georgia and Switzerland have agreed in principle to boost cooperation in an effort to tackle illegal immigration.

On a visit to the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, the Swiss state secretary for migration, Mario Gattiker, signed a declaration of intent with the Georgian interior minister, Vakhtang Gomelauri, to increase cooperation.

There has been a sharp increase in “unfounded asylum applications” from Georgians entering Switzerland over the past few years, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) said on Tuesday.

“However, Georgian nationals have almost no chance of being granted asylum in Switzerland,” a statement said.external link

Switzerland therefore called on Georgia to prevent its citizens, who are suffering from complex health problems, from lodging asylum requests, according to the SEM.

It added that the Swiss authorities plan to pursue “a swift ant consistent policy of return to the country of origin.”

Both sides also pledged to tighten border controls, with Switzerland sending an immigration expert to Georgia’s second airport of Kutaisi to support local border officials.

“Safe country”

Last August, the Swiss government decided to add Georgia to the list of so-called “safe countries”, paving the way for the repatriation of asylum seekers whose applications have been turned down.

The SEM said that measures taken last year in response to the rise in asylum applications from Georgia – from 465 in 2016 to more than 670 in 2018 - have had a “limited impact”.

Georgian nationals have been able to travel to Switzerland and other countries inside the single-border Schengen area since 2017.

Earlier this year, an accord on free trade came into effect between Georgia and the European Free Trade Association, which includes Switzerland.

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