Future of Ukraine refugees in Latvia still uncertain

  • 2014-12-22
  • from wire reports and Will Mawhood, RIGA

A total of 70 refugees from Ukraine have applied for asylum in Latvia so far this year, but no positive decisions have yet been made, which suggests that the asylum seekers could still end up being turned away, the Latvian television programme Zinu TOP 10 reported on Sunday.

Ukrainian asylum seekers can still hope to be assigned the so-called "alternative status". The law stipulates that this status can be granted if the applicant is unable to return to their country of citizenship or previous asylum due to internal or external conflict. The majority of applications for asylum came from the war-torn regions of Ukraine around Luhansk and Donetsk; some also came from former residents of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast and Zaporizhia Oblast.

Zinu TOP 10 says that all indications suggest that these asylum seekers could still be refused, as they have the option to move to more peaceful regions of Ukraine.

"Their cases are still being reviewed, and we are not deporting them back to Ukraine. However, no decisions have been made yet, as we are still waiting for solutions and further developments in Ukraine," the representative of the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, Laura Laiva, told the programme.

The United Nations' Refugee Agency has estimated that over 1 million residents of Ukraine have been displaced since fighting started earlier this year. Latvia has been one of the most vocal critics of Russia's recent foreign policy with regard to Ukraine. In a statement issued in August, the Latvian Foreign Ministry said that the country "condemns the invasion of Ukrainian territory by armed forces of the Russian Federation. This represents open aggression against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and undermines the fundamental principles of international law. The offensive actions undertaken by the Russian Federation pose a threat to peace and stability throughout Europe."