Refugee numbers known in a month says PM

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The exact number of refugees from Africa that Latvia will have to accept will be determined in late July, Latvian Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma told the press on Friday in Brussels where the European Council is discussing the migration issues and refugee quotas.

"The agreement is that [the refugee quotas] will be assigned based on the conclusions of the Council meeting in April,” she said, adding that the total number of refugees was 60,000.

"We did not discuss specific mechanisms but the problem in general – the development issues and other reasons – in order to prevent emigration [from Africa to the EU],” the Latvian prime minister said.

More specific numbers of refugees that each EU member state will have to accept had not been discussed at this European Council meeting, and the distribution of 60,000 refugees among the member states will be decided by the ministers of home affairs in late July, Straujuma said.

Under the European Commission proposals, Latvia might have to accept arouond 700 refugees over 2 years. Latvia opposes the mandatory refugee quotas but for the sake of solidarity might voluntary join the EU-coordinated system for relocation of asylum seekers, accepting a token number of refugees.

Latvia substantiates its objections to the mandatory refugee quotas mostly by the fact that huge numbers of Russian-speaking immigrants settled in Latvia during Soviet rule. The subsequent failure to fully integrate them over 20 years is held up as a reason why no refugees should be accepted - an argument that is unlikely to play well in Brussels.

Meanwhile politicians from parties inside the ruling coalition have been expressing their own views on the matter, with clear scaremongering among them. Janis Iesalnieks, a senior official at the Justice Ministry and prominent member of the right-wing National Alliance political grouping tweeted:

"Is this what we want in Latvia? 127,000 immigrants arrived in Sweden in 2014 but meanwhile 115,000 children were born (including immigrant families)"

Latvia registered more than 20,000 births in 2014.

As previously reported by LSM, Latvia was last week ranked the most anti-immigrant country in the European Union, despite the fact that thousands of Latvians have found themselves refugees during the course of the country's history.

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