Interior Minister talks Russian economic refugees

Latvia has no plan to accommodate a large number of Russian economic refugees, Interior Minister Marija Golubeva said in an interview on Latvian Radio on March 10.

The Minister for the Interior pointed out that economic conditions, their deterioration or the drafting into the army following the Russian invasion of Ukraine are not in themselves grounds for providing asylum to these people.

“The Russian people do not have this special protection mechanism which is intended for Ukrainians. This means that if you want to apply for asylum in any country of the European Union, it will have to be shown that there are real grounds for applying for asylum. So there is either political or religious persecution, or threats of violence, threats to life,” Golubeva said.

The Minister explained that the European asylum system works on uniform principles. She added that Latvia does not plan to ban persons who already have visas in Latvia or other countries in the Schengen area or residence permits. This applies to persons who do not pose a risk to the public.

“But regarding people fleeing the regime, those opposing the regime or, for example, opposition-journalists, I believe that Latvia should consider the possibility of allowing them to enter and possibly stay,” the Minister added.

Golubeva explained that there are other systems in Europe for such cases, such as the Common European Asylum System. “We don't use it right now for Ukrainians because they have special status. They don't have to go through asylum applications, Ukrainians can simply enter and apply for either a visa or other document and work,” explained the minister.

In theory, one could also apply for a humanitarian visa at a border post, namely the border guard, explaining the situation. “Explaining that there is a need to ask for asylum, that there is a critical situation, that there is persecution because of political beliefs or something. But there can be no simple reasons for this, such as recruitment in the army or economic problems,” Golubeva said.

The Minister pointed out that there had been one request for this kind of asylum at the border of Latvia last week.

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