Latvia's refugee housing capacity runs short; more solutions sought

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During the first days of the Ukraine war, several thousand Latvian households expressed their readiness to take in Ukrainian refugees. At the moment, this activity has subsided and the main concern for refugee accommodation lies on the shoulders of municipalities, whose accommodation facilities will soon be exhausted, Latvian Television reported March 24.

More than 6,300 Ukrainian war refugees have found asylum in Latvia. Some have relatives, friends or own housing to stay in. Most, or approximately 5,100 people, are housed in spaces offered by Latvian local governments. There is less and less space, but the flow of refugees is not stopping.

"In all cities capacity is nearly exhausted at the moment. And we should start thinking about how to set up other spaces like school gyms [..] It must be realistic – if the number of refugees arriving doubles, then it must be prepared, so that people don't have to sleep on wooden floors,” said Viktors Valainis, executive director of the Latvian Association of Large Cities.

For example, Valmiera municipality has accommodated some 330 refugees, of which more than 200 are housed in local government hotels. In the first days of the war, many people volunteered to take refugees in for free. When it comes to real business, the enthusiasm subsides.

“That initial euphoria, when everybody was ready to help, it somehow subsided. There are costs that come from this,“ said Jānis Baiks, Chairman of Valmiera Municipality.

Interior Minister Marija Golubeva said that the government is currently making a proposal for refugees to compensate for private apartment rental expenses. She forecast that this alone would not be enough to accommodate all asylum seekers. Therefore, it is time to start thinking about how to adapt other public spaces, such as school gyms, to accommodation.

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