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Dimitri Khundadze: “Georgian nationals left the country in the biggest volumes in 2009, 2010 and 2011.”

Verdict: FactCheck concludes that Dimitri Khundadze’s statement is a LIE.

Resume: Both emigrants and immigrants can be either Georgian nationals or citizens of foreign countries. Dimitri Khundadze speaks about migration of Georgian nationals, although neither migrants nor immigrants were registered by their citizenship status prior to 2012.

Given the lack of a relevant system prior to 2012, the accurate registration of migration flows was impossible. As a result of universal public census results, the National Statistics Office of Georgia drastically altered the pre-2012 figures of the migration balance (the difference between emigrants and immigrants). According to the previous figures, the biggest positive balance of migration was registered in 2005 and 2009-2011. However, according to the updated data, there is the highest negative migration balance in the same years. The general trend that net migration was negative in between the census periods is not disputed. However, the figures from some years before 2012 do not reflect an objective reality but, rather instead, some artificial numbers in order to make sure that the population figures at the beginning and at the end of the reporting period were technically in line. Therefore, analysing migration figures from some specific pre-2012 years and, furthermore, comparing them to the post-2012 period is manipulative and distorts the picture.

Analysis

On 10 May 2022, at the plenary session of the Parliament of Georgia, MP from the Parliamentary Majority, Dimitri Khundadze, stated: “I would like to state in all seriousness that Georgian nationals left the country in the biggest volumes in 2009, 2010 and 2011. These were citizens who never came back.”

At the very beginning, it needs to be clarified that both emigrants and immigrants could be either Georgian citizens or citizens of foreign countries. In accordance with the methodology of the National Statistics Office of Georgia, a person is considered as an emigrant if he left Georgia in the last 12 months, stayed in another country for at least 183 days and his permanent place of residence prior to leaving the country was Georgia; that is, he spent at least 183 days in Georgia in the previous 12 months. A person is considered as an immigrant if he spent at least 183 days in Georgia after crossing the border and prior to crossing the border, Georgia was not a place of his permanent residence. Dimitri Khundadze explicitly speaks about the migration of Georgian nationals, although neither migrants nor immigrants were registered by their citizenship status prior to 2012. Furthermore, there are no data as to whether or not those Georgian nationals who left the country in that period returned to Georgia.

As a result of the 2014 universal public census, Georgia’s population decreased from 4.5 million to 3.7 million as compared to the previous census data. Inaccuracies in the 2002 universal public census and external migration flows were named as the reasons behind a significant decrease in the Georgian population. The 2002 universal public census results were revised and based on alternative data (including Integrated Household Survey) population shrank by nearly 8.7% to 3.9 million. The difference between the 2002 population’s adjusted figure and the 2014 public census data was mostly distributed on migration. According to the updated data of the National Statistics Office of Georgia, the external net migration rate has been negative since 1994, meaning that more people leave the country every year than come into it. The National Statistics Office of Georgia drastically altered the pre-2012 migration data. According to the previous data, the highest positive net migration figures were registered in 2005 and 2009-2011 whilst according the updated data, these were the years with the highest negative net migration figures.

Prior to 2012, migration flows were not properly registered. Until 2004, net migration was mostly calculated by the so-called expert assessments. Since 2004, the National Statistics Office of Georgia has had border crossing data, although it was not possible to identify immigrants and emigrants and the data included all the persons who entered or left the country’s territory. This, naturally led to a substantial discrepancy between the officially registered statistical data about the number of migrants and the real figures. A new methodology was introduced from 2012 and it became possible to identify immigrants and emigrants. The general trend that net migration was negative in between the census periods is not disputed. However, the figures from some years before 2012 do not reflect an objective reality but, rather instead, some artificial numbers in order to make sure that the population figures at the beginning and at the end of the reporting period were technically in line. Therefore, analysing migration figures from some specific pre-2012 years and, furthermore, comparing them to the post-2012 period is inappropriate and distorts the picture.

Graph 1: External Net Migration, Old and Updated Data (2002-2021)

Source: National Statistics Office of Georgia

Of note is that in 2020, it was the first time when Georgia had a positive net migration rate and the difference between emigrants and immigrants was 15,732. This was stipulated by the pandemic and the shutting down of borders. In 2021 when the borders were opened again, 25,996 more people left the country as compared to those who came in. Of additional note is that since 2012 (after the National Statistics Office of Georgia introduced a new methodology), a record high figure of negative net migration was registered in 2021.

One thing we can say with much certainty is that migration has been one of the biggest challenges of the country both under the previous and incumbent governments as more people leave Georgia annually as compared to those who enter. Since migration flows were not registered accurately prior to 2012 and figures from some specific years do not reflect an objective reality, using these data is manipulative. In addition, neither emigrants nor immigrants were registered by their citizenship status before 2012. Therefore, FactCheck concludes that Dimitri Khundadze’s statement is a LIE.