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Page last updated at 16:52 GMT, Friday, 6 October 2006 17:52 UK

Georgia deportees describe ordeal

Georgians arrive in Tbilisi onboard a Russian plane
There are fears that more Georgians will be deported soon

Some of about 130 Georgians deported by plane from Russia have said they felt "like Jews during World War II".

"It is terrible," one woman, Irina, told Reuters before being forced to board a flight from Moscow to Tbilisi.

Others said they were rounded up by police on the streets over the past few days, although their documents were all in order.

The deported Georgians are accused by Russia of immigration offences, according to media reports.

It is the latest development in a growing row between Moscow and Tbilisi triggered by last week's arrest of four alleged Russian spies in Georgia.

'Hysteria'

The 130 Georgian nationals arrived in Tbilisi on a plane belonging to the Russian emergency situations ministry.

Some of the deportees said they could no longer stay in Russia because of the current anti-Georgian hysteria.

They're crushing people, they're destroying families. They used to persecute Jews like this. Now it's the Georgians' turn
Inna Bashkirova

"Our children have been kicked out of school. We have been asked to quit our jobs," one woman told Georgian TV.

Another woman said Russian officials told her she was not welcomed in Russia, although all her documents were in order.

Several deportees said they were rounded up by police and taken to a military airport near Moscow without "any explanation".

However, one woman told Georgian TV that her passport had expired when she was caught "on the streets" of Moscow.

Some said they felt they had been deported simply because they were Georgians.

About one million ethnic Georgians live in Russia and there are fears that hundreds more of them will be deported in the near future.

In Moscow, Inna Bashkirova told Associated Press news agency that her brother, Shota Georgadze, was held on suspicion of lacking a valid residency permit.

She said police began preparations for his deportation, although he was married to a Russian citizen and had a young child by her.

"They're crushing people, they're destroying families. They used to persecute Jews like this. Now it's the Georgians' turn," Ms Bashkirova said.

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