Migration expert: Emigration from Latvia is here to stay

As emigration is not ceasing, the state should review its policies, keeping in mind the fact that people can have a sense of belonging to several places, not only Latvia. That's what migration expert Aija Lulle told LTV's Panorāma April 21.

Aija Lulle: People are still leaving Latvia. Statistically speaking, it's about, or less than 20,000 people. Of course, emigration decreased steeply following the economic crisis. And it seems that there are not many people left in Latvia who could leave. The vast majority have already left, and a small part of them tried returning after the crisis. 

I think that within the next few years we'll see a small but gradual decrease in emigration. 

LTV: Have there been changes in the reasons why people leave Latvia? 

Aija Lulle: The reasons are always different. I haven't seen a case in which there was a single reason as to why people choose to leave. It usually accumulates in time, and then, so to speak, it's the last drop, the last straw. 

There are also economic considerations, but nevertheless people leave because of the complex body [of considerations]. But more and more I see -- and I'm researching young people specifically -- that people leave as they simply want to see the world and step out of their comfort zone. While during the economic downturn there arose another factor, researched by geographers, the so-called offence factors. People are very offended and wounded because of what happened during the crisis, and sadly the people from this group are less likely or completely unlikely to return. 

Starting work on a return policy was a step in the right direction. It's clear there's a limited budget and that there are numerous problems, but as a step and as a message it was in the right direction.

Clinging on to negativity -- that everyone is leaving, that people are dying out, that everything is bad and the government isn't doing anything... that's not true. We must look at the problem from different angles.

LTV: Speaking of re-emigration policy, could you point out what else should be done?

Aija Lulle: There should be fundamental change in the law, allowing people to belong to several places, to several states. Currently the law says that people can, in substance, belong only to a single place and a single system. 

There are so many of us living abroad--we should establish a legal basis so that we can belong to Latvia and a different place as well. But as of now it's impossible.

Aija Lulle is a Latvian sociologist. She holds a PhD in geography. Lulle headed the University of Latvia Centre for Diaspora and Migration Research from 2014 to 2016. She has taught at the University of Sussex and the University of Eastern Finland. 

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