GALI, DFWatch–Georgians living in Gali welcome the opening by separatist authorities of Enguri Bridge for travel in one direction, but demand they also allow passage in the other direction across the bridge that connects Abkhazia with Georgia proper.
Although Sukhumi does not allow the passage from Gali to Zugdidi, locals think that if the Georgian side had paid more attention, they would have opened the bridge for travellers in both directions.
Locals here in Gali, a predominantly ethnic Georgian district of Abkhazia, say they have to quarantine for 14 days in Georgian-controlled territory and are often forced to turn to illegal crossings. Especially taking into account that sneaking across from Gali to Zugdidi is much easier and safer than passing illegally in the other direction.
“Traffic is allowed unilaterally and there is a risk of getting stuck in Gali. However, it is easier to sneak across from here to Zugdidi than vice versa. I just think that if the Georgian government had taken the initiative and conducted a quick test [on Enguri Bridge], I think Abkhazians would have opened the way from here. Even if they open now, we have to quarantine for 14 days that makes it effectively impossible,” a 32-year-old resident of the village of Tagiloni told DFWatch.
“We heard information about the unilateral opening of the bridge through Facebook. A negative test result is required. If I manage to obtain it, I’ll go. I have parents there, I have to harvest citrus. I haven’t done it for three months. However, it’s questionable how I will be able to go back, because the road is only open one-way. I have a wife and children here, I cannot leave them for a long time. If there is a danger of being stuck, I will probably think about leaving,” said L.J., a native of the village of Chuburkhinji who currently resides in Zugdidi with his family.
The separatist authorities in Abkhazia temporarily opened the Enguri checkpoint with Georgia proper from December 3 to 10 for “humanitarian” reasons. Those who possess Abkhaz citizenship or permanent residence there and are Covid-19 free can cross the “border” from 9 am till 7 pm during this period.
All individuals who wish to cross the borderline must carry a document issued by a Georgian healthcare institution which confirms a Covid-19 examination not more than 72 hours prior to the crossing.
In addition, everyone must undergo a medical examination at the checkpoint.
The Enguri checkpoint is the sole connection between breakaway Abkhazia and Georgia proper. All other checkpoints and passages have been closed down by Sokhumi during the last few years. Enguri Bridge was closed in spring shortly after the first confirmed Covid-19 case in Georgia. Since then it was opened temporarily only a few times for “humanitarian” reasons, most recently from August 5 to 9.
During each opening hundreds and even thousands of people use the passage. According to the most recent data, 907 individuals crossed Enguri Bridge only on June 22-24.