Admitting refugees estimated to cost €16m

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The Latvian government has adopted a tentative action plan for the admission of refugees in Latvia, which is expected to require an estimated 16 million euros, reported BNS newswire on Tuesday.

It was agreed that the Interior Ministry might present an updated plan and cost estimates on October 20 and that the workgroup of the ministry might come up with its final report on November 30.

The Welfare Ministry and the State Employment Agency are the institutions put in charge of the admission of refugees in Latvia, Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma told the press on Tuesday.

The premier indicated that the action plan for the refugees' admission, devised by the Interior Ministry's workgroup and adopted by the government on Tuesday, is very extensive, but that it is still provisional.

"It is important that the welfare minister, along with the State Employment Agency, undertook responsibility for the refugees' integration. The rest will be the Interior Ministry’s responsibility. But we will still talk about cooperation with the Society Integration Fund," Straujuma said.

The total financing necessary for the refugees' admission has to be specified so that the cost estimate might be submitted to the parliament ahead of the second reading of Latvia's 2016 budget, Interior Ministry state secretary Ilze Petersone-Godmane said.

The plan provides for the creation of a multi-purpose center in Mucenieki, outside Riga, where refugees will be able to learn the language as well as receive social, educational and other services.

The workgroup has concluded that additional premises and facilities are needed for the accommodation and integration of the refugees.

The current plan includes a Latvian representatives' visit to Greece and Italy to provide information on various aspects of Latvia's social life, culture, political system, ethnic groups living in Latvia, religion, laws and penalties, and more. The information will be provided with a short video.

The workgroup intends to consider offering the refugees temporary jobs at the asylum seekers' center in Mucenieki and its territory from the day of their arrival, passing respective legislative amendments if necessary.

The costs of the admission scheme have already been criticized, for example, by Welfare Minister Uldis Augulis, who told Latvian Television on Wednesday that the current plan tries to encompass everything that has not been done in preparing Latvia's capabilities for admitting asylum seekers until now.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Jānis Reirs said that it's still unknown where the money for the plan will come from, and that the costs have not been included in next year's budget plan.

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

The European Commission proposed to relocate 120,000 people in clear need of international protection from Italy (15,600), Greece (50,400) and Hungary (54,000). As Hungary does not wish to be included as beneficiary of the emergency relocation scheme, the EU ministers agreed that other member states confronted with a similarly evolving pressure following a sudden inflow of nationals of third countries could benefit instead.

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