Georgia operates a dedicated immigration detention centre in Tbilisi called the Temporary Accommodation Centre. The facility opened in 2014 following negotiations for a visa-free regime with the European Union. An “Action Plan” developed as part of these negotiations provided that Georgia must have “adequate infrastructure (including detention centres)… to ensure… effective expulsion of illegally staying […]
Responding to the Global Detention Project’s Covid-19 survey, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Georgia office reported that the country applied a full moratorium on new immigration detention orders during the state of emergency that lasted two months (21 March to 22 May) due to Covid-19. IOM Georgia stated that they were aware of an […]
Last updated: October 2021
Georgia operates a dedicated immigration detention centre in Tbilisi called the Temporary Accommodation Centre. The facility opened in 2014 after the country began negotiating a visa-free regime with the European Union. An "Action Plan" developed as part of these negotiations provided that Georgia must have "adequate infrastructure (including detention centres) ... to ensure ... effective expulsion of illegally staying and/or transiting third country nationals." Since the opening of the centre, the country has received EU financing for various detention-related activities, including training sessions and workshops with detention officials from various European member states. (See: Transnational Institute, "OUTSOURCING OPPRESSION: How Europe externalises migrant detention beyond its shores," 2021, https://www.tni.org/files/publication-downloads/outsourcingoppression-report-tni.pdf)
European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), “Report to the Georgian Government on the visit to Georgia carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 10 to 21 September 2018,” Council of Europe, 10 May 2019, pp. 22-25. Available at: https://rm.coe.int/1680945eca
Establishments for foreign nationals deprived of their liberty under aliens legislation
1. Preliminary remarks
32. The CPT’s delegation carried out a first-time visit to Georgia’s only immigration detention facility (opened in 2014), the Temporary Accommodation Centre of the Migration Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (hereafter, TAC or the Centre). Located in Varketili district of Tbilisi, the Centre had the capacity of 96 places (in three separate units – for adult men, adult women, and families with children31) and was accommodating, at the time of the visit, 18 detained foreign nationals including 16 adult men and two adult women (there were no children). None of them was an asylum seeker. The longest staying detainee had been at the Centre since 3 months, the average stay was said to be 1.5 to 2 months.
33. According to the 2014 Law on the Legal Status of Aliens and Stateless Persons (the Aliens Act), a foreign national may be detained by the police and held at a TDI for a maximum of 48 hours. Prolongation of detention beyond this period requires a court decision and the foreign national must be immediately transferred to the TAC. The placement decision is for 3 months maximum, and may be prolonged by a court decision for the maximum of another 6 months. If a foreign national has not been deported within 9 months, he/she must be released from the TAC. It is noteworthy that, save in exceptional circumstances where it is justified by the need to protect, for a very short period of time, the person’s interests, detention of unaccompanied minors is prohibited (they are instead taken care of by child protection authorities and placed in foster families).
34. The delegation did not receive any allegations of ill-treatment by staff from the TAC, and most of the interviewed foreign nationals spoke positively about the staff (including custodial officers). Further, it appeared that conflicts between detained foreign nationals were rare and never of any serious nature. The overall atmosphere at the Centre was relaxed.
3. Conditions of detention
35. Material conditions at the TAC were generally very good. The accommodation was spacious (rooms for three to eight persons, measuring from some 50 to approximately 80 m2), well furnished, bright and had an efficient cooling/heating system and ventilation. Throughout the day, foreign nationals could move freely within their living units and had unlimited access to communal toilets, washrooms, showers and laundries with new washing machines. Hygiene items were provided free of charge and warm food served three times a day.
That said, some complaints were heard about the quality of the food (absence of fresh vegetables and fruit) and the impossibility to buy fresh food in the shop.36 The Georgian authorities are invited to verify the quality of the food offered to foreign nationals detained at the TAC and to increase the range of food items available for sale. Further, offering the detainees the possibility to cook their meals by themselves should be seriously considered.
36. As regards activities, each unit had a recreation area with sofas, chairs, tables, a TV set (with many foreign channels) and some books and board games. Further, during the day detainees had access to a large outdoor yard equipped for foot-, volley- and basketball (for at least 3 hours per day), and could play table tennis and use computers with access to the Internet.
Overall, the offer of activities could thus be considered adequate. However, the CPT invites the Georgian authorities to make more efforts to offer some organised activities (e.g. lectures, handicraft, art and cooking classes) to foreign nationals accommodated at the Centre for extended periods (up to several months).
4. Health care
37. The TAC employed two full-time doctors (one of whom was always present from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and a full-time psychologist. In case of emergency, one of the doctors could come to the Centre at night or an ambulance was called. Although this arrangement seemed to function well in practice, and none of the detained foreign nationals complained of any delays in access to a doctor,37 the Committee is of the view that it would be advisable to recruit nursing staff and organise a 24/7 health-care coverage at the TAC.
38. All newly-arrived foreign nationals were medically screened by the doctors, and injuries observed on the detainees were recorded and reported to the relevant authorities. That said, the recording was rather superficial and succinct. The CPT recommends that the same screening, recording and reporting procedures be applied at the TAC as those already in place at the TDIs with on-site health-care staff,38 and that the doctors (and in due course, the nurse) working at the Centre be provided with appropriate training in this respect.
39. Upon their arrival at the Centre, foreign nationals were given information (both orally and in writing, in a range of languages39) about their rights, including on the right of access to a lawyer (and about the house rules). Ex officio legal assistance was available, and indeed the delegation witnessed a visit by an ex officio lawyer to one of the detainees. Furthermore, interpretation services were provided if necessary (the Ministry of Internal Affairs had signed contracts with several interpreters), although only in the context of the ongoing legal procedure (not for daily life situations such as conversations with custodial and health-care staff); the Georgian authorities are invited to explore ways to extend the access to interpretation services at the TAC.
However, some of the detainees appeared ill-informed of the precise scope and content of their right of access to ex officio legal assistance (they thought it would only be available if they appealed the placement decision). The Committee invites the Georgian authorities to verify and make sure that foreign nationals detained at the TAC are duly and fully informed of the aforementioned right.
40. As for contact with the outside world, detained foreign nationals could make a free telephone call to their relatives upon arrival and could then use the office phone three times per week. Calls to lawyers and NGOs were not subjected to any limitations. Further, as already mentioned (see paragraph 36 above), detainees had access to computers and could communicate with their families and friends using messenger services and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). Visits were also allowed (3 times a week) and took place in suitable open-type premises.
41. Detained foreign nationals were informed of available avenues of complaint (both internal and external) and could make use of confidential complaints boxes located in the corridors beyond the CCTV coverage.40 Further, the Centre received frequent visits by a range of bodies including the Public Defender/NPM and the relevant international41 and non-governmental organisations.
6. Other issues
42. The TAC employed specially trained custodial staff42 (there were at least five men and two women on each of the three shifts), as well as a social worker and (as already mentioned in paragraph 37 above) a psychologist. Regarding language skills, most of the staff spoke Russian and some could communicate in English or French; however, communication was a problematic issue, especially for the detainees coming from Asian and Arabic-speaking countries. The CPT invites the Georgian authorities to make further efforts to improve language skills of the staff working at the Centre.
43. As for discipline, the TAC possessed a punishment room43 which could be used for placements of up to 10 days (only for adult detainees) by decision of the Director of the Migration Department.44 The disciplinary procedure included an obligatory hearing (with interpretation if needed) and the provision of a written reasoned decision (with information on the right to appeal), a copy of which was to be given to the detainee.
However, there was no specific journal to record placements in the punishment room,45 and persons placed in it would have no access to outdoor exercise and to reading matter. The Committee recommends that steps be taken to remedy these deficiencies. The CPT would also like to be informed whether the disciplinary procedure includes the right for the detained person to call witnesses on their own behalf and to cross-examine evidence given against them.
Recruited from the police and deployed after having received specialised training on working with foreign nationals (e.g. inter-cultural communication and conflict resolution), including courses dispensed by Frontex. The room was clean, well lit and ventilated, measured some 10 m2 and was equipped with an ordinary bed (with a mattress, a pillow and a blanket) and a partially screened sanitary annexe comprising a toilet and a washbasin.
The room had never been used so far.
Copies of disciplinary decisions were put in detainees’ individual files and reports on each placement would be sent electronically to the Migration Department.