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Problems in the reception of Ukrainian refugees are an indicator of the work of our integration system / Article

Interview with “Providus” asylum and migration researcher Ieva Raubiško

The influx illuminated the problems

Ieva Raubiško, 2016.

Photo: LETA, Ieva Čikas

Initially, the residents of our country were actively involved in the reception of refugees from the Ukrainian war in Latvia, but now, the enthusiasm is starting to wane, and the problems are becoming more and more apparent. This is due to the fact that at the time when the refugees from the Ukrainian war arrived, there was no well-functioning and well-coordinated integration system in Latvia, explained Raubiško.

In addition to problems with housing, there are also challenges related to employment, learning the Latvian language, learning opportunities for children and educational opportunities for adults as well.

She added that it is not easy to find solutions for such a large number of refugees in a short time. At the same time, she reminded that similar problems emerged earlier when Europe experienced an influx of Syrian refugees. “This problem has existed for several years. And non-governmental organizations have been talking about it all the time,” said the researcher.

A discriminatory approach

Raubiško also pointed to a very different and even discriminatory approach towards different types of asylum seekers. “I am now referring to the recently released Amnesty International report on how several thousand migrants who crossed the border of Belarus were received, or rather imprisoned, illegally detained in Lithuania. And Nils Muižnieks, head of Amnesty International’s European department, called it institutionalized racism. Namely, almost nothing is offered to one type of entrants or, more precisely, asylum applications are not properly examined or accepted at all.

In the case of Lithuania, long-term, humiliating detention with restrictions on human rights is taking place. In the case of Ukrainian refugees, we see a different attitude – welcome, get involved, help,” said the researcher.

She admitted that refugees from Ukraine seem “more acceptable” in Europe.

From the point of view of seeking asylum, Russian citizens who leave their country also find themselves in a difficult situation. “This group is in the most enviable position. If such asylum requests do come, they should be carefully considered and granted as much as possible. These people could also potentially integrate into Latvian society. I immediately, of course, see and am aware of objections, fears about the formation of a fifth column, about the arrival of unreliable persons, about security risks. I think that the situation of these people could be solved with a longer time gap, when the emotions and reactions of the first moment would have subsided,” Raubiško said.

In general, looking at the European context, the researcher pointed out that 5% of the European population are citizens of third countries. “It’s not a big number. (..) I understand that for some it even sounds very heretical and unacceptable. But it is not a threat, but rather an opportunity,” Raubiško said.

CONTEXT:

From July 1, when the reduced support for the accommodation of Ukrainian refugees will come into effect, approximately 3,000 refugees will have to find another place to live, the Union of Local Governments of Latvia (LPS) has announced.

LPS stated that not only in Riga, but also in many other municipalities, the refugee accommodation quotas have been reached. Such is the situation in Rēzekne, Rēzekne district, Saulkrasti, Tukums, Varakļani, Sigulda and other districts.

Meanwhile, the Association of Large Cities of Latvia announced that the eviction of Ukrainian refugees from tourist accommodation and the termination of contracts have begun in several cities.

In general, since the start of the war in Ukraine by Russia, approximately 32,000 Ukrainian civilians have been registered in Latvia, while almost 26,000 refugees have been issued residence documents with the right to employment, according to the information gathered by the Ministry of the Interior.

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