Roma People, a Stateless Community in Georgia

Even in the 21st century there exist people who do not have an Identity and are not recognized by the legal institutions of the country.

The Roma minority group which has been living in Georgia since the beginning of the 20th century has problems unlike those of other ethnic minorities living in collective conditions in various districts of Georgia.

Once Georgia was formed as an independent state, the Roma found themselves in an extremely difficult situation. Following the 1990s civil war, most of the Georgian population was left unemployed and the majority of the Roma turned to fortune-telling to earn a living. However, those working in governmental structures were dismissed because they did not know the Georgian language.

Official data has revealed that 1,500 Roma are registered in Georgia, most of whom live on the outskirts of Georgia’s capital city Tbilisi. A second large group of this ethnic minority has settled in Gachiani village of the Gardabani municipality, Kakheti region.

Roma people are considered one of the most impoverished ethnic groups in Georgia, having a common problem: the majority of them have no access to education, jobs and healthcare services, because most of them do not have ID cards.

Director of organization ‘Disarmament and Non-violence’ Rima Gelevana said that it is worrying that groups of national minorities still exist in Georgia who are illiterate and without access to primary education.

“The Roma community is facing many difficulties in Georgia. These complex problems are limited access to education, human rights, social integration, access to health and social assistance, unemployment and so on. They need special support from the Government and non-governmental organizations to improve their life conditions,” Gelenava said.

“Without ID cards they cannot get the benefits of social services under state programs. Many elderly Roma people cannot get a pension because of a lack of documentation” she said.
She emphasized that no single project to support the Roma people’s integration into Georgian society has been carried out by state organizations in Georgia.

“Some non-governmental organizations are implementing various projects to improve Roma people’s rights, but it is not enough. The Roma community is an ethnic group facing difficulties and challenges in Georgia and they require a special approach,” Gelevana said

The Human Rights House in Tbilisi (HRHT) has provided free legal aid to the Roma people living in compact settlements to assist them in obtaining ID cards.

According to HRHT Lawyer Eka Kobesashvili, these people do not officially exist anywhere in the country and so they cannot benefit from state social services.

The HRHT has already provided the birth details of two citizens from the Navtlugi settlement while the process is on-going with six more cases.

According to the lawyer, a person has to carry out a number of procedures to obtain an ID card – among them an estimation of birth details, something which can involve a long and challenging process.

“We invite witnesses who confirm that the applicant was really born in Georgia and his/her birth details. Afterwards, the status of the person is estimated. For example, if an applicant has lived in the territory of Georgia since March 31, 1993, he/she will get Georgian citizenship, but if it is not confirmed, that an applicant gets the status of a stateless person. In this case, the person will receive rights and social benefits equal to a person with Georgian citizenship,” Kobesashvili said.

The HRHT lawyer went on to speak about the difficulties of the procedures. She said applicants need several visits to the House of Justice to estimate birth details. Roma people are eager to take documents but are unwilling to visit the House of Justice.

“We met the head of the House of Justice and his deputy but they could not change the procedures so that applicant Roma did not need visits to the House of Justice. Roma people do not want to go to the House of Justice because they do not have time. They want to take IDs but do not want to make the necessary effort to get them,” Kobesashvili said.

Tamar Svanidze

Photo: Soso Khachidze/

23 October 2015 23:41