The Ukrainian war refugee Andrei arrived in Liepāja two weeks ago.
“The only help I need is to find a job. I'm living with friends for the time being. Next, everything depends on whether I get a visa and start working,” Andrei said.
Two employees work at the one-stop shop in Liepaja, but if necessary, an interpreter and a lawyer are also attached. There are many visitors – not only war refugees from Ukraine, but also citizens from Russia, India, Georgia, and other countries who want to live, work or study in Latvia.
“We're helping to get information, fill out the forms they need, understand where to look for what to do. If there are challenges, we will also help to solve them individually,” explained Zaiga Pūce, head of the Society Integration Foundation secretariat.
More than 4,000 people from third countries are currently registered in Liepāja. Of them, 1,400 are war refugees from Ukraine, some are Russian citizens, as well as a large number of students and job seekers from other countries.
"The number of plans is growing, and demand for the workforce is growing. If we look at today: unemployment is 4%, it is historically the lowest percentage, so we need working hands. Where to take them? They are foreign nationals who travel to Latvia. We need them, they are welcome in the city,” said Liepāja City Council Vice-President Salvis Roga.
Some representatives of Kurzeme authorities indicated in the opening event that the arrivals felt unwelcome.
“The situation in general is improving – they are not so much unwanted on the part of Liepaja society, but it still happens that someone in Liepāja simply says, as they pass – go back to your country, what are you looking for?” said Liepāja University spokeswoman Ērika Lauberga-Sleže.
In the one-stop shop, it is offered to fight public prejudices by learning to communicate in Latvian.
At present, free language courses are provided only for Ukrainian war refugees, but the SIF has asked the government to find funding for training other third-country nationals. Language proficiency is also essential in seeking work.
This year, one-stop shops will also open in Jelgava, Valmiera and Daugavpils.