Interior Minister: We agreed to relocate, not admit 531 refugees

Latvia's obligations over admitting refugees have not changed, and the country has to be prepared to admit 531 refugees in the course of two years. However, if an asylum seeker doesn't qualify to a refugee status, no one will replace him, so the total number of accepted refugees can be fewer than 531, Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis told Latvian Television on Wednesday.

"We have committed not to bringing in 531 refugees, but rather to relocating 531 persons. The basic tenet is to support [..] Italy and Greece by reducing the administrative load these countries can't handle [..]. It doesn't mean that everyone that comes to Latvia will stay here. Some may not qualify for refugee status," said Kozlovskis. 

The end decision about admitting refugees would lie with the Latvian authorities. Those refused shelter will be sent back to their respective countries, and they won't be replaced with new refugees.

Kozlovskis also sought to allay fears about refugees, saying that for example the Mucenieki asylum seeker center is operating since 1999 and no calls to the police have been registered about the people living there.

The Latvian government and the Latvian parliamentary committee on European affairs have supported the plan by the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, for dealing with the migration crisis in Europe under which Latvia would admit up to 776 asylum seekers - 531 from Italy and Greece, while the fate of another 245 that were to be accepted from Hungary will be decided within a year.

The first refugees are expected to arrive in Latvia in January.

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