Ombudsman touts citizenship for all

Ombudsman Juris Jansons voices support for granting citizenship to everyone born in the country automatically. He also suggests changing the name used to designate non-citizens, mainly Soviet-era immigrants who have never naturalised and their descendants.

Under present rules, 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.

In a September 6 interview with LTV, Jansons said that the current regulation does not meet its goals as "scores of non-citizens are still being born". He said that citizenship should be granted automatically and withdrawn only if the parents explicitly want their newborn to be a citizen of another country.

"It's very important that parents and legal guardians would keep the children's best interests in mind when making such a decision," said Jansons.

Jansons also criticized the name used to mean non-citizens, i.e. nepilsoņi in Latvian, as it leads to misunderstandings, like the term 'stateless people' being incorrectly applied to Latvia's non-citizens. 

He said that the term may be used against Latvia to claim a part of Latvian society is deprived of rights. "The people who have the status of a non-citizen enjoy the same social and economic rights as any other Latvian citizen," he said.

Jansons did not venture to suggest what name should be adopted instead. 

In supporting the idea to grant citizenship automatically, Jansons mirrored the views of President of Latvia, Raimonds Vējonis, who has raised the issue with increasing frequency.

A discussion will be held at the Riga Castle on September 7 dedicated to legal and practical approaches to stop making people non-citizens.

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 simple procedure by taking the citizenship exam. 

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

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