200 asylum seekers accepted in 16 years

While public debate continues about the whether and how Latvia should accept refugees fleeing warzones in the Middle East and North Africa, official statistics reveal that over the last 16 years only 200 have been granted special protection status, reported the BNS newswire.

This year and last year most migrants seeking asylum in Latvia came from Georgia, Syria, Ukraine and Vietnam, Laura Laiva, a representative of the Latvian Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, told BNS, adding that the total number of asylum seekers was 465.

Out of the 1,592 foreigners who have applied for asylum in Latvia since 1998, only 202 have been granted protection status.

As at May 28, 2015, none of this year's applicants had been granted asylum, but seven migrants had received subsidiary protection status.

In accordance with a decision taken by EU justice and interior ministers, as many as 54,760 refugees fleeing civil war and the brutality of Islamic State will be admitted to EU member states.

Latvia has agreed to take in 250 refugees. Negotiations on the resettlement of refugees in member states are expected to continue until the end of this year with social media full of fears of mass immigration and many politicians attempting to outdo each other in hardline attitudes, despite the experience of many Latvians as migrants either for economic or political reasons.

Latvian Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis said last week that refugees will arrive in Latvia only when an integration program is ready. The minister also noted that acceptance of 250 refugees will be a one-time project and not the beginning of a bigger inflow of refugees. He said he would prefer to take in families rather than single individuals.

Latvia will receive 6,000 euros for every refugee to fund their Latvian studies and integrating them within the society. 

Later on Monday, reported BNS, in a session held at the Mucenieki asylum center, Kozlovskis said that the 250 refugees will be accepted every 3 months, not all at once. 

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