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Georgians in Ireland: ‘We hear people saying Ireland is full but there’s no other options’

There are more Georgians in State international protection accommodation than any other nationality

Before 2019, Nana Patsatsia never imagined leaving her home in Abhkazia, a breakaway region of north-western Georgia, lying in the Caucasus region at the intersection of eastern Europe and west Asia.

“I never thought we would go anywhere,” said Patsatsia, who lived with her husband and two daughters in the city Batumi on the shores of the Black Sea, before the family moved to the capital Tbilisi.*

“But when we told a friend about our situation with my husband, and his safety, he suggested we come to Ireland, at least until the next elections. He said it was a good country, maybe we could find peace here.

Abkhazia, which borders Russia, fought a war of secession with Georgia from 1992 to 1993 and declared independence in 1999. Since the 2008 Georgian-Russian war, Moscow views it as an independent state, while Georgia says Abkhazia is occupied by Russia.


Patsatsia said her husband, who joined Georgia’s police academy following the country’s 2003 Rose Revolution, faced aggression and violence because of his role as a police captain under former president Mikheil Saakashvili.*

A journalist from Georgia, Patsatsia spent four years in direct provision before moving with her family to a house in Moate, Co Westmeath.

“They went against all the policemen who were created during Saakashvili’s time and it became dangerous for my husband, for me and my family too.”

Her husband has held a number of jobs since arriving in Ireland, including in construction and technology. She now works in fast food chain McDonald’s.

“I know I could be in a better job, I had a different value in my country and it’s not easy here. But it’s okay for me.”

She struggles when people don’t believe she worked as a journalist in Georgia.

“If you can’t speak very clear English, they don’t believe you and that makes me feel down. People don’t understand,” she said.

Until recently, Patsatsia and her family were among the 3,782 Georgians living in the international protection accommodation service (IPAS). Georgians are the highest represented nationality housed by IPAS followed by Nigerians, Algerians and Somali people, according to the latest Department of Equality statistics.

Census data from last year shows there were 1,180 Georgians living in Ireland, though the number maybe higher now given the numbers that have arrived in the State over the past three years.

Georgian asylum applications have increased significantly in that time, from 338 in 2021 to 2,710 last year. Some 999 Georgians have applied for asylum to date in 2023, as of December 6th.

Asked why she believes so many Georgians are coming here, Patsatsia says the arrival of tens of thousands of Russians and Ukrainians in Georgia is driving up prices, while the country’s political and economic situation is forcing people to move abroad.

“No one wants to run,” she said. “Georgia was once a really safe country.”

Her family spent four years sharing one room in a direct provision centre. They had the option to move into family accommodation in Donegal but her daughters did not want to leave their school in Westmeath.

“It was very difficult to be in that room for so long; we were there during Covid,” she said.

The family were granted leave to remain in May 2022 but were unable to find a place to live until September of this year.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which offers assisted voluntary return to asylum seekers who wish to return to home, has helped 26 Georgians leave Ireland and return home so far this year. Another 40 people have expressed interest in voluntary return, says the IOM Dublin office.

David, who prefers not to give his real name, is one of those planning to leave. He came to Ireland four months ago after a stint in Germany. He explained, through an interpreter, that he left Georgia because he feared for his life after he was targeted by a criminal gang.

“I came to Ireland because I thought it would be safer; there isn’t too much crime in this country,” he said.

David was initially sent to the State accommodation centre in Citywest but later moved in with a friend. He also spent five days sleeping rough. He claims he repeatedly contacted IPAS seeking help but says there was no response so he turned to the IOM for help.

“I do feel safe in Ireland but I have nothing here, no way of building a life. If I had a work permit maybe I would stay, save up and then move home,” said David, who was a builder and house painter in Georgia.

“But I have nothing, not even social welfare.”

David said he must return to support his sister who is sick.

“I have no bank card, no documents here, it’s time to go. I wanted to change my life here but I have no hope any more,” he said.

Marika, who moved here four years ago with her daughter and is living in the Temple accommodation centre in Westmeath, is more positive about her future. The 24-year-old followed her mother to Ireland although she was reluctant to leave Georgia.

“I loved it there, I had my friends and my life, but it’s not a safe country any more,” she said.

“Officially Georgia is described as safe country but it’s not – there’s the crime and Russia and people are poor,” she said.

She is still coming to terms with the trauma of the 2008 Russo-Georgian war.

“My country is very beautiful, I’d love to live there but I have nobody there. Every night before I go to sleep I think about Georgia,” she said.

Marika is working as a waitress and is a member of the local community choir. She struggled to find work at first.

“When you mention your address, some people don’t want to hire you. But I think if you come to Ireland you should be doing something, be active. Young people shouldn’t just be sitting at home but in my centre there’s people like that,” she said.

Local volunteers have made Marika feel very welcome but she often feels uncomfortable in the centre with her daughter.

“If it was just families I’d feel more comfortable; we single mums cannot live with single men.”

Marika hopes to study psychology in college next year. Asked whether she made the right decision by coming here, Patsatsia lets out a big sigh.

“It was a good choice. People here are very good, kind and helpful. But before 2012, when the government changed, we had our professions,” she said when Saakashvili conceded defeat in the Georgian elections.

“When you’re an adult, it’s very hard to start over. And when English isn’t your main language, that’s hard,” she said.

“We can hear people saying Ireland is full, Ireland is for the Irish. But there’s no other options. There’s no hope and people are running. Georgians just don’t have hope.”

She hopes to return to her country soon where she can work “in our own language, work for our own country,” she said.

“All Georgians wish to go back.”

*Article amended at 11am on December 11th, 2023

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Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast