Now that Latvia has become part of the broader European arena, the issue of foreign citizens who want to spend some of their lives in Latvia has become increasingly important. Those who have feared “hordes of immigrants” flooding into the country have been proven wrong, but it is a fact that several thousand third-country citizens arrive in Latvia each year. They want to study, work, or simply live with their families.
Family links are one of the main reasons why such people come to Latvia. Most of them are seeking to unify or reunify a family – get married, live with their children or invite their own parents to come to the country.
According to the Citizenship and Migration Board, more than 7,500 third-country citizens with temporary residence permits lived in Latvia at the beginning of 2010. They have come from 77 different countries – mostly Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and other closer and better known countries, of course, but not only. People from more distant and less known countries are also joining our society, bringing different traditions and cultural elements into our everyday lives.
For instance, a citizen of Algeria lives in the Latvian city of Daugavpils. His wife is from Latvia, and their son was born here. At first they lived in Ireland, but then the family decided that there were more benefits to living in Latvia – not least the fact that the wife’s parents lived there and wanted someone to take over the family business.
The Algerian says that the family chose to live in Latvia because living conditions are better here. What’s more, the family appreciated access to different services such as health care in a way to which they were more accustomed. The man says honestly that he chose the country in which his family would have the best life. His father lives in France, while his brothers and sisters are still in Algeria.
Researchers who have studied reasons for migration often conclude that people simply look for a better life. If someone decides that life in Latvia will be better, then that person will live in Latvia irrespective of where he or she was born.
The Algerian has been in Latvia for three years. Asked about his duties toward the country in which he is living, he said that learning Latvian is a key, not least because only then can he get a permanent residency permit. He adds that speaking the language makes it much easier to integrate into society and to get information. The man’s native language is Berber, but he also speaks French, English, Arabic, and a bit of Russian.
There are no special state-financed programmes or courses in Latvia to teach the Latvian language to immigrants, although there have been individual project-based training programmes.
“Social contacts are particularly important for people who arrive in a new country, and so it is of key importance that the local society be prepared to work with immigrants and to help them in shaping their lives,” says the Algerian. He says that he’d be happy to help other immigrants to learn about Latvia’s culture, habits and laws. “Latvia is the country in which I live, and I am obliged to observe its laws. Latvians, for their part, can learn more information about other nations and cultures by talking to me,” he says.
*This information is prepared with the support of the project Nr. 2008/1.1./12 “Information Campaign of Latvian Society about Third Country Nationals” under the European Fund for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals 2008 of the General Programme “Solidarity and Management of Migration Flows” 2007-2013.
This document has been prepared with European Union financial support.
The Justice Ministry is fully responsible for the content of this document which cannot be regarded as European Union views.