€16m price tag for refugees inaccurate: PM

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Reports that taking in refugees under a European Union plan will cost Latvia around €16m are not correct, Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma insisted Tuesday on the public LTV channel - but failed to say what the real cost will be.

"This 16 million is an inaccurate total," Straujuma told the Rita Panorama news broadcast.

She said that this sum includes expenses that are not directly related with admission of refugees and that in any case the Euopean Commission will make additional payments for every refugee admitted.

Staujuma said that the government will provide a "very precise" breakdown of costs and funding during a meeting on October 20, one day after coalition parties will discuss the issue in what is likely to be a very fractious meeting.

"We must deparate what is for refugees from what is for infrastructure," Straujuma explained.

Speaking about the monthly benefits to be paid to the refugees arriving to Latvia, the prime minister said that it will be lower than the earlier discussed 256 euros, but it should be higher than 128 euros a month.

Currently, the benefit refugees receive in Latvia during the first 12 months after getting the status is 256 euros a month, plus money for Latvian language courses.

It is planned that the first refugees might arrive in Latvia this winter, in batches of 30-40 people each month.

In line with the decision made by EU interior ministers, Latvia has to take in additional 281 asylum seekers on top of the 250 asylum seekers agreed on earlier, and thus, the total number of asylum seekers for Latvia would reach 531, down from a previous suggested total of 776.

The plan provides for the relocation of 120,000 refugees across the EU as a whole, the European Commission has said.

Meanwhile the Latvian State Employment Agency (NVA) is ready to integrate refugees in the Latvian job market, though details remain to be worked out, said NVA head Inese Kalvane in an interview with commercial LNT television on Tuesday.

"The protocol says that NVA is the coordinating institution in integration of the asylum seekers... If you ask whether it is completely clear to us how we will work, then I can tell that we are thinking about it. We will have to organize our services in a slightly different way than usually," said Kalvane.

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