How Ventspils and Liepāja handle refugee accommodation

In both major cities of Kurzeme – Ventspils and Liepāja – refugee accommodation capacity has been exhausted. It is expected that, at the end of the tourism season, rental apartments will be available again, which are used during the summer for short-term rent. Latvian Radio sought answers August 8 to how the issue is tackled in the two cities.

As reported numerous times by LSM, Latvia ran out of refugee accommodation a while ago. Municipalities are left to their own devices to seek solutions. As reported last week, for example, Daugavpils has managed to move people into dormitories and sports bases.

Ventspils was one of the first cities in Latvia outside Rīga which began hosting refugees from Ukraine, housing them in the dormitories of Ventspils University College. Currently, nearly 700 refugees have been registered in the city.

“Of these 700 about 250 visitors are housed in our dormitory. [..] We housed these people from the very beginning when they started to come to us when there was Covid and there were few students and so on. 300 were housed in this service hotel. There are currently 250,” said Kaspars Vitenbergs, deputy executive director of Ventspils City Municipality.

The municipality also had other accommodation sites – campsites and the Olympic center, but when the tourist season started, tourist bookings had to be taken into account, said Kaspars Vitenbergs.

“In some ways, we look forward to the autumn, when the tourism season comes to an end, and there will be an offer again to house Ukrainian visitors from the private sector [..] In September, students return to both Ventspils University College and music high school, and the vocational school. We must, of course, also provide dormitories for students, which will be a challenge for us by September,” said Vitenbergs.

Meanwhile, in Liepāja, 1,196 Ukrainian residents have been registered, but the number could be higher, according to the municipality. It is not possible to take any more in Liepāja, which is why people are directed to the municipality of Dienvidkurzeme, although there are not many places either.

“The problem for Liepāja is probably the same as the rest of Latvia – there is simply a lack of accommodation. In addition to the lack of space, Liepāja has the summer season that is an active time for tourism, festivals, and various events. In principle, all hotels are busy. If we are talking about places where the Ukrainian people are housed, then the largest number is in private households. We have 175. Together, 450 Ukrainian civilians have been housed there. Approximately 100 people are housed in various hotels, and there are 55 people housed in the municipal apartments,” said Agnija Meniķe, spokeswoman for the municipality of Liepaja.

Currently, the intensity is decreasing, but it is likely that the situation will change, said Meniķe. Another location is being adapted – a dormitory which could house around 60 Ukrainian civilians by October and up to 100 the next year.

 

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