Latvia will accept 250 refugees

  • 2015-07-07
  • From wire reports and TBT staff, RIGA

On Monday June 6, 2015, Latvia agreed to accept 250 refugees, according to it’s government's decision in a closed meeting on Monday.

Ministers of the ruling Unity and the Greens and Farmers Union (ZZS) supported acceptance of refugees, while the opinion of Culture Minister Dace Melbarde, representing the National Alliance's, was attached to the document. 

None of other National Alliance's ministers took part in government's extraordinary meeting.

Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma told the press after the meeting the government has agreed on solidarity not only regarding acceptance of refugees, but also in border guarding and improvement of development programs in Africa and other countries where refugees come from.

"The government has made a decision that Latvia volunteers to accept refugees, and this is a one-time event,” said Straujuma. “The number agreed on is 250 refugees," she said, adding Latvia should also discuss how to organise the acceptance of refugees and their integration within Latvian society.

Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis said the refugees will be accepted in 2017 starting from this year, but it does not mean they will be relocated to Latvia immediately. 

He said there will be still discussions held with other member states, as the total number of refugees who should be relocated is 60,000 and it means other EU member states will have to accept more refugees.

Kozlovskis underscored that this is a "one-time solidarity gesture.” Latvia's ability to accept 250 refugees has been calculated on basis of its gross domestic product (GDP) and the population compared to other EU member states. 

He said he will represent Latvia's position at the interior ministers council in Luxembourg on Thursday.

Kozlovskis said the Interior Ministry, the Welfare Ministry, the Culture Ministry and the Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry in cooperation with local governments will have to work on integration policy for the coming years. 

Currently it is planned refugees will be placed in the existing facility in Mucenieki and so far no additional financing is planned for new facilities.

ZZS board member Edgars Tavars told the press after the meeting "the party supports the position of the prime minister.” 

The National Alliance's board member Roberts Zile, however, repeatedly underscored the party's position that Latvia should strongly defend a stance on the migration matter that the quota principle should not refer to Latvia, requiring a "specific situation" status as probably will be granted to Bulgaria and Hungary, according to the unofficial stance of the Council of Europe.

Latvian Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis, representing the Unity party, earlier told news agency BNS the only eligibility criteria to the asylum seekers would be that they should qualify for the refugee status, meaning those being persecuted for ethnic, political or religious reasons.

He said the refugees could be placed in the existing facility in Mucenieki. 

The European Commission will grant financing depending on the number of refugees to be accepted, and this will help strengthen the capacity of the Mucenieki facility, the interior minister said.

In accordance with the EC’s plan, Latvia would have to provide asylum to more than 700 refugees. 

Latvia's official position suggests, however, it does not back the mandatory refugee quotas. 

Latvia would be ready to discuss voluntary participation in the EU's refugee relocation scheme by admitting a smaller number of asylum seekers for the sake of solidarity.