GALI, DFWatch–Sokhumi has set a fixed price for obtaining a residene permit, a document that is required, but hard for many here to obtain. The price will now be set to 600 Russian rubles, or USD 25, which is a relatively decent amount even for impoverished Gali residents.
However, local ethnic Georgians who compose the vast majority of this easternmost district of breakaway Abkhazia doubt that the novelty will prevent local corrupt bureaucracy from harassing them.
Currently, Gali resident have to pay up to 3,000 rubles, or USD 125, for the document. This is a significant amount here, and many Galians prefer not to pay.
But since a residence permit is required in order to cross the administrative border line (ABL) between separatist Abkhazia and Georgia proper, and Sokhumi doesn’t provide locals with passports, many here try to find other ways to cross the ABL than the Enguri Bridge checkpoint and instead opt for other routes.
Since the 2008 war, the ABL has been guarded by Russian troops and crossing it without permission is a risky – and sometimes lethal – business. Dozens of people have been detained by Russians, while ten days ago a 29 year-old man died under suspicious circumstances at a Russian military facility after been caught.
“I doubt that this issue will affect our lives positively,” a Gali resident told DFWatch. “The head of administration has been issuing papers according to his personal interest and amount of bribe. I don’t think this will change in the near future.”
The man DFWatch spoke to and many others asked us to translate and publish this story in Russian in order for those in Sokhumi to be aware of what really is going in Gali.
The document, residence permit, is needed for Gali residents solely in order to travel to and from Georgia proper. The paper doesn’t grant them the right to vote and stand for election, and neither does it provide the holder the right to purchase property in Abkhazia.