Criteria for admitting refugees revealed

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The Interior Ministry is preparing the plan for admitting asylum seekers and refugees to Latvia, and it is hoped that these people will be able to integrate into the Latvian society within a year after arrival, Ilze Pētersone-Godmane, State Secretary for the Interior Ministry told Latvian Radio on Tuesday.

During the time refugees spend in the asylum-seekers' housing center in Mucenieki, the state will work out an individual integration program for each refugee, taking into account what jobs the persons are qualified to work.

"[We'll see] not only that each person is provided a job, but we need also to look if it's a family with children to ensure the children have the chance to attend a kindergarten and school," Pētersone-Godmane said.

It is also planned to start teaching the refugees Latvian as soon as possible.

That's why it is hoped that, a year after arriving here, when the state benefits for a person or a family runs out, they will have already integrated in Latvia.

One of the contested points of the plan is the €256 monthly refugee benefit, which is taken away when the person lands a job.

"We had discussions at the [Saeima] work group [for accepting refugees] and we think that the benefits should be kept for 12 months. It's a political decision. [..] If we want these people to take off and gain some stability in Latvia, we would definitely talk about keeping this benefit," Pētersone-Godmane said.

She also told Latvian Radio about the basic criteria for selecting refugees that would ensure an easier integration process. In short, these groups of people are preferred:

  • Families with children who go to school, and thus can be easier taught Latvian;
  • One of the two parents speak at least one of the languages of a European country;
  • Persons who have identity documents;
  • Persons who are educated.

The work group has also arrived at a conclusion that there's not enough capacity at the Mucenieki asylum-seekers' housing center, but there are two unfinished buildings at the center that'll have to be finished for about a million euros.

Meanwhile, on Monday Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma said that the Latvian ruling coalition agreed, in principle, to lower the allowances to refugees, which currently are set at €256 a month for 12 months. 

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