Questions over Riga refugee center's role

Take note – story published 6 years ago

A municipal center for helping refugees, run by the Riga City Council has been operational for a year now, led by Sandris Bergmanis, a well-known member of the Harmony political party. Yet despite being established with the goal of helping refugees find housing, work, and education, no one at the center speaks English (or other shared languages) well enough to communicate effectively with clients, reported LTV's De facto on May 14. 

Furthermore, many refugees haven't even heard about the Riga Coordination Center for Admitting Asylum Seekers at all, reports De facto.

Sandris Bergmanis started working at the center about a year ago, when he left the post of board member at the scandal-ridden municipal housing manager Rigas Namu Parvaldnieks. It was previously reported his wage at the center would be €2,200 a month.

He has also been a candidate for Harmony in elections and cropped up previously fronting the 'Stop Drugs' group which won backing from the Harmony-controlled city council.

However he was unable to explain his work responsibilities and accomplishments throughout the year the center has been operational. He asked De facto to send questions to the Riga City Council Press Office, saying that it would take three pages to describe his work responsibilities.

Another Harmony politician, Imants Burvis, working at the company as a project manager, was unable to explain precisely what he's doing there but said he's coordinating information exchange between state and municipal structures, apparently with the goal of saving the city money. 

 "The state invited [asylum seekers] and is now looking at how they can provide them with an apartment and a job, without asking whether they want it. I want to make it so that we can avoid the state putting the promises it broke against Brussels on the shoulders of Riga's taxpayers. I am explaining what the state has not done on its part," Burvis told LTV. 

De facto carried out an experiment with a refugee who arrived under the EU's relocation scheme. The refugee called Sandris Bergmanis on the phone and asked him for help, however none of the experts at the center spoke fluent English. The refugee was able to arrange a meeting at the Riga center only with the help of his mentor.

The Coordination Center for Admitting Asylum Seekers was established a year ago. The Riga City Council claimed that it is tasked with providing social help to the newcomers, as well as helping them find places to live, receive education, and work.

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