Latvian Welfare and Interior Ministers disagree over refugee responsibilities

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The Welfare and Interior Ministers can't agree on which ministry should take responsibility for the refugees who arrived in Latvia, left, and have since been deported back, according to the Latvian Television De Facto broadcast.

These are people who received asylum in Latvia, but decided to leave and go to a different European Union country - often Germany. There they were “caught” and deported back to Latvia, but then in Latvia they no longer qualify for any government support.

One family LTV spoke to had received asylum, but could not afford to feed all of their children with the 100 euro a month allowance. They went abroad and were stopped by police, as asylum seekers aren't allowed to reside in a foreign country for more than three months. However when they got off the plane in Latvia, they were essentially homeless.

An exception was made and the refugees were allowed to stay in the Mucenieki center for a while, despite the law dictating that the center is normally for asylum seekers awaiting a government decision. According to the law, government support is provided only a few months after being granted asylum.

With expired documents and no declared address, the family could neither sign up for social services, nor look for work. In the end the family was helped by the I Want to Help Refugees organization, which bought them supermarket gift cards, found a sponsor to pay for an apartment and set them up with a mentor.

This is currently a unique situation, however we may soon have many more of these families. According to the Society Integration Foundation two thirds of the over 900 who received asylum have left the country. Germany and Latvia are preparing to sign an agreement to promote better cooperation in returning refugees, however the Ombudsman's office is still alarmed by the situation.

Welfare Minister Ramona Petraviča (KPV LV) said that the housing issue isn't in her competency, and that the only thing she can do is allow them to live in the Mucenieki center for a few months.

“Detained offenders live in Mucenieki, they have enough space and such instances are rare,” says Petraviča.

Mucenieki is part of the Interior Ministry structure, however Minister Sandis Ģirģens (KPV LV) says that helping refugees is a Welfare Ministry function. He says that if returning refugees are housed in Mucenieki, then the center should be transferred to the Welfare Ministry.

“Let Mrs. Petravičas find the most suitable solution. I don't solve Petraviča's issues, which are her competency,” Ģirģens told De facto.

Petraviča disagrees with the suggestion of transferring the Mucenieki center to the Welfare Ministry.

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