GALI, DFWatch–Breakaway Abkhazia will start issuing “visas” at the Enguri border crossing. Until now, these travel documents have only been issued in Sokhumi and Gali.

DFWatch was made aware of the new procedures, which will come into effect from January, by one of the school principal from the Gali district who attended a meeting with separatist authorities.

Like other documents issued by Sokhumi, these “visas” are not recognized by Georgia.

Locals DFWatch talked to expressed a positive attitude to the decision, hoping it will mean a significant simplification of the procedures associated with getting obtaining an entry permit.

Firstly, the people we talked to said the processing time for a “visa” is very long, sometimes several months. If Sokhumi goes ahead with the decision, they expect the waiting time to be much shorter.

Secondly, they complain that sometimes a travel document is not issued even after submitting all the documentation needed and paying the fee.

“We often pay the fee, but the Russian border guards find out at the ‘border’ that the ‘visas’ are fake,” a resident of Barghebi village said. “So if this [issuing visas at the Enguri checkpoint] happens, it’s probably better for us. It may be the only way to bring our children and grandchildren here.”

Visas are valid for 10, 20 or 30 days. A 10-day visa receipt in Sukhumi costs 750 Russian rubles (USD 13), in  Gali the same document costs 1,800 rubles (USD 31). 20 and 30-day visas in Sokhumi cost 1,400 Russian rubles (USD 24) and in Gali it costs 2,500 rubles (USD 43). The document can be extended by paying the relevant sum.