Just seven refugees have become Latvian citizens

In the seventeen years since 1998 when legal asylum procedures were adopted, a mere seven out of 200 people granted refugee or "alternative" status have become Latvian citizens, according to Interior Ministry representative Sandis Barks who spoke in a discussion held on Friday, reported BNS.

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Refugees can apply for citizenship after spending five years in the Latvia and passing a citizenship exam. 

Barks said that since 1998, seven people with the status of refugee or an alternative status have been granted Latvian citizenship, including five refugees and two people with an alternative status. 

Latvia should not "invent the wheel" again as it has already dealt with admission of asylum seekers. The present system should be improved and adapted to the new situation, Barks said.

Barks said that State Border Guard representatives have headed to Greece to hold talks on how and when Latvia can start admission of refugees from Greece.

"When the agreement is reached, profiles of people will be sent to Latvia, and the Security Police and other institutions will carefully assess these files. Rejections can be based on security reasons," he said.

Latvia is to admit the first ten refugees in January 2016.

Latvia has indicated that it would like to admit families with children and people with foreign language skills, basic or vocational education, work experience or skills, as well as valid travel documents.

The country has accepted the plan by the European Commission, according to which Latvia would admit up to 776 asylum seekers who have fled from Africa and the Middle East.

From 1998 until December this year Latvia has received applications from more than 1,700 asylum seekers. 

According to data by the Pew Research Center, among EU countries Latvia has the lowest rate of approving asylum seekers, having accepted only 8.3% of asylum seekers from January to June 2015.

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