At the end of March 2017, an agreement on visa-free travel between the European Union and Georgia came into effect for their citizens. Since it entered into force, overall, more than 300,000 Georgian residents have travelled to EU countries. And according to statistics compiled by the European Union, approximately 70,000 of these people (i.e. more than 20% of the total) have not returned back home after their 3-month stays, i.e. they chose to remain in Europe illegally. Most of the people that did not come back are ordinary Georgian citizens who set their sights on Europe (once the borders were opened) and on respectable salaries there that they could not earn in Georgia in recent years.
According to a report on the impact of visa liberalization on countries of destination published by the European Commission, most Georgian citizens who had chosen to remain in the EU illegally are residing in Germany and Greece.
However, aside from ordinary Georgians that moved to the EU for work purposes, there were thousands of criminals among the immigrants who quickly established local affiliates of Georgian criminal organizations (COs) in Europe. This caused additional problems for European law enforcement agencies two years after the visa free regime with Georgia had come into effect, first and foremost, because of a substantial number of criminals among the Georgian immigrants to the EU.
It is also worth highlighting that even before the agreement between the European Union and Georgia was signed, Europe had already been experiencing problems associated with the growing presence of Georgian COs. Out of all the Western European nations, Greece, France and Spain had been most affected by this influx of criminals. According to France’s Sirasco (Service d’information, de renseignement et d’analyse stratégique sur la criminalité organisée / Department of Information, Intelligence and Strategic Analysis on Organized Crime), Georgian mob groups fairly quickly took over Albanian mafia’s territory. They gained control over the second largest (in size) Greek port in the city of Thessaloniki as well as trade routes for shipping contraband goods that link the Balkans with the nations of Western Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Subsequently, members of Georgian organized criminal organizations spread their influence at first to Spain, and then to France. From 2008 to 2010 alone,