The government of the de facto republic of Abkhazia will start issuing residence permits, Abkhazian state press agency Apsnypress reported quoting Abkhazia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The permits will be issued for foreign citizens staying legally on the territory of Abkhazia for not less than one year. People living in the Gali (Gal) District are mentioned in a separate paragraph.
‘[Residence permits will be issued] in a simplified procedure to: foreign citizens born in the territory of the Gal District of the Abkhazian Autonomous SSR who have permanently resided on the territory of the Republic of Abkhazia since 12 October 1999 for not less than ten years, and to the members of their families (spouse, minor children)’, the statement reads.
Gali is an administrative unit of Abkhazia, where according to the 2011 census, 98% of its more than 30,000 residents are ethnic Georgians. The district is separated from Georgian-controlled territory by the River Enguri (Ingur).
The majority of Gali residents have Georgian citizenship. Many of them used to have Abkhazian passports as well, which were cancelled following a law passed in 2013, according to which only Abkhazian–Russian dual citizenship is allowed. There are exceptions for ethnic Abkhaz diaspora living abroad.
The Gali District administration conducted research in 2015, according to which more than 18,000 Georgians in the district held Georgian citizenship.
The Prosecutor’s Office of Abkhazia launched an investigation in 2015 against the administration of Gali for ‘illegally’ issuing Abkhazian passports to Gali Georgians. According to Abkhazian law, an ethnic Georgian person who wishes to receive an Abkhazian passport has to prove that they aren’t citizens of Georgia.
In 2016, the Abkhazian Prosecutor’s Office announced that the investigation into passports issued to Georgians was over. According to the investigation, 14,988 passports were illegally issued in the period 2007–2014 by the administration of Gali. The recipients of these passports had Georgian citizenship as well.
After the investigation was over, the Abkhazian government announced that they would start issuing new passports and abolish the old ones, while people ineligible for citizenship could be granted residence permits.
Resident of the republic who do not have an Abkhazian passport face restrictions on freedom of movement, can’t receive pensions, and don’t have the right to vote.