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All refugees first granted asylum have left Latvia

A special report by LTV has revealed that asylum seekers in Latvia view the country as a temporary stopping-off point on the road to Germany.

All 23 individuals granted full asylum so far have promptly packed their bags and left.

According to the documentary film by LTV, Refugees Have Faces (available for viewing above in Latvian - warning, there's a 15-second advertisement), an Eritrean man, who was working at the asylum seeker center in Mucenieki, central Latvia, tendered his resignation in September and decided to move to Germany together with his wife to join his aunt, who lives there.

It means that all 23 foreigners, who had been granted asylum in Latvia up to that point, have now left Latvia.

Santa Jonate, a spokeswoman for the Latvian Citizenship and Migration Office, confirmed to LETA that the Eritrean had quit his job at Mucenieki as of October 14. He used to work at the asylum seeker center as an interpreter, helping the Latvian authorities to communicate with asylum seekers. The Citizenship and Migration Office is not aware of his current whereabouts.

In early September LTV reported that, out of the 23 asylum seekers, who had been relocated to Latvia as part of the EU refugee relocation program and granted asylum, 21 people had already left Latvia and were now in Germany.

However, the Eritrean man was seen as evidence some of the asylum seekers would stay in Latvia and try to integrate with society.

In 2015 Latvia committed to taking in 531 asylum seekers in two years. While most of them will be relocated from EU member states Greece and Italy, 50 people have to be resettled from third countries, such as Turkey.

The latest group arrived October 18, comprising 15 Syrians, including nine underage children, who arrived from Greece, the Latvian Citizenship and Migration Office said.

The three Syrian families relocated to Latvia from Greece have now been placed in the asylum seeker center in Mucenieki. There is a teacher, a tailor and a food industry worker among the relocated adults. The asylum seekers have stated in their applications that they speak Arabic, English and Kurmanji.

In accordance with the international procedures and the Latvian Asylum Law, asylum requests have to be submitted immediately upon arrival. Representatives of the Latvian National Border Guard will also explain the procedures to the asylum seekers and prepare documentation for the Latvian Citizenship and Migration Office to decide on giving them refugee or 'alternative' status.

Processing asylum applications generaly takes around three months, according to information from the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (PMLP).

Alternative status is granted to persons that cannot be recognized as refugees according to the Geneva Convention, but who require protection pursuant to the international treaties that Latvia has entered into, the laws of the EU and practices of the Member States.

Therefore arrivals from war zones such as Syria will tend to fall into this category due to a "severe and individual threat that endangers life and health due to widespread violence."

So far Latvia has admitted 109 people under the EU-wide refugee relocation and resettlement scheme. Of these, 37 have already been granted either refugee of alternative status – five have been given refugee status and 32 received the alternative status, valid for one year.

Further details about the asylum process in Latvia can be read at this handy FAQ page produced by PMLP.

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