Javakheti protesters demand Georgia open borders Armenia, Russia
About 100 people held a protest on February 3 in the center of Akhalkalaki in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region of Georgia, urging the government to open the borders with Armenia and Russia.
The land borders have been closed for almost a year since March 2000 due to the high rate of coronavirus infection in these countries.
Protesters went to the mayor’s office to receive an answer to their demands. City Mayor Yurik Hunanyan met them on the stairs, local news agency JNEWS said.
People said that the main way for them to earn money was to leave for seasonal work in Russia and Armenia. The inability to travel means hunger for their families.
Many also said that due to lack of earnings, they would not be able to pay loans to banks and could lose their homes.
The protesters gave the authorities one week to resolve the issue and dispersed.
This is not the first protest in this mountainous region in southwestern Georgia where ethnic Armenians make for the majority of the population.
The previous protest took place in Akhalkalaki on January 31, with the same demand – to open the borders with Russia and Armenia.
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Thousands of men living in Javakheti, for decades every spring, leave for seasonal work, mostly to Russia, but also to Armenia, where they are mainly employed in construction work. They return home in late autumn.
In 2020, the borders closed due to the coronavirus pandemic prevented them from leaving the country. As a result, the region lost millions of dollars. A repetition of this situation in 2021 threatens local residents with complete disaster.
According to the agency for social assistance, the lowest amount of benefits is issued in the regions of Samtskhe-Javakheti and Imereti, which can be explained by the fact that migration for seasonal work is especially large from these two regions.