TBILISI, DFWatch — Georgia’s Foreign Ministry is looking into why the Israel has denied a group of Georgian worshipers entry visa.

Foreign Affairs Minister Maia Panjikidze responded to reports that Georgian worshipers were denied entry into Israel for Christmas.

Nana Buadze, employee of the Georgian Church’s tourism department, says that they have sent a list of 46 worshipers to the Interior Ministry of Israel to obtain visas for them, but all applications were rejected.

She said all tourist companies which used to organize trips for pilgrims from Georgia were also denied entry for their customers.

Saba, who chairs the religious tourism department at the Georgia Patriarchy, thinks the refusals might be related to the many Georgians who are living illegally in Israel.

He says there were problems sometimes when Israel rejected visa applications, but there were no categorical refusal for worshipers. He said there are unconfirmed reports that some tourist operators organized charter trips from Georgia to Israel, and then the Georgians stayed illegally in Israel and settled there.

Others think the refusals may be related to the recent decision by Georgia to support upgrading the status of Palestine during a vote in the United Nations General Assembly.

The Embassy of Israel in Georgia states that they are in the process of studying this issue and cannot make specific comments yet.

“The process of issuing visas for individuals and groups is implemented in accordance with law. Israel’s Embassy is doing its best to assist in this process,” embassy representatives explain.

Georgia’s Foreign Affairs Minister said the ministry will look into the reason for the refusals, but cannot say anything at the moment. The minister was made aware of the issue only after media reported it, as none of companies which implement those visits to Israel have complained to the ministry.