GALI, DFWatch–As Abkhazia’s breakaway authorities are planning to end the use of specially issued ‘passports’ by the end of 2018, the Georgian minority here are facing new bureaucratic hurdles and further discrimination.

From next year, inhabitants of the breakaway republic will have to apply for new travel documents and that will inevitably pose serious problems for the ethnic Georgians living in Abkhazia.

Several Gali residents told DFWatch that the de facto authorities will require them to have documents that are virtually impossible to obtain.

“For example, [Sokhumi] requires one to obtain a document proving that the person lived in Abkhazia in 1992-93,” a resident of Gali told DFWatch, adding that this is ‘physically impossible for an ethnic Georgian’.

In Gali, a region predominantly inhabited by ethnic Georgians, people believe the breakaway authorities are making these changes in order to deliberately create insurmountable barriers for them, effectively reducing them to the second-rate people, as the only option available to them now is residence permit. Although such a document allows its holder to cross the administrative borderline, it doesn’t give its holder certain rights within the de facto administration such as the right to vote or stand for office.

“They in Sokhumi don’t want for the ethnic Georgians to have the same rights as they themselves have on the territory of Abkhazia,” another Gali resident says. “Now formally we also have the right to submit documents, but [obtaining Abkhaz] passport is an illusion. I don’t think anybody is going to challenge their fate in that regard, because people prefer to spend their money on getting a residence permit and move easily across the border.”

But some locals also fear that de facto authorities may impose new bureaucratic barriers to obtaining even a residency permit. Currently, it costs at least 500 Russian rubles (USD 205), which is quite a sum in this destitute place.