Latvia should stop making new non-citizens' within a decade, says ombudsman

Latvia should put an end to the 'non-citizen' status within the next ten years, said ombudsman Juris Jansons in an interview with LTV on October 19.

He said that the status of 'non-citizen' is not part of international law and Latvia should abolish it. He said it should take place within the next ten years.

"It [depends] absolutely on a political decision. But I'd say - ten years and we put a stop to it... it would be an interim period during which work would be need to be done in schools, instilling patriotic values in students," said Jansons.

"We should convince people that citizenship is important, not impose it on them. It's an element of state identity, the closest link someone has to their country," he said.

Jansons thinks naturalization--the process of becoming a citizen--should be encouraged, and that Latvian non-citizens may become not only Latvian but also Russian citizens if they choose to.

Earlier an initiative to effectively stop making new 'non-citizens', submitted to Saeima by Latvia's president Raimonds Vejonis, was shut down quickly at the parliament

Non-citizens are Soviet-era immigrants to the country and their descendants who have not undergone a naturalization process.

All newborns have the right to citizenship. However, children born to Latvia's "non-citizens" have to specifically say they want their child to be a Latvian citizen.

According to the Citizenship and Migration Affairs Office, there were 242,560 non-citizens in Latvia in early 2017. Non-citizens don't enjoy certain rights - crucially, the right to vote.

However they can become citizens in a fairly simple procedure by taking the citizenship exam. 

Just 52 newborns were registered as non-citizens last year as opposed to 21,545 who were registered as citizens.

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