Refugees leave Latvia for Germany

Of the 23 legally recognized refugees arriving under the EU's relocation program this year, 21 have left Latvia for Germany, reported Latvian Television's Aizliegtais Paņēmiens (Forbidden Methods) Monday.

Why do they leave?

Bunana, a Syrian mother of three, who in late July said she was planning to settle down here, told Aizliegtais paņēmiens that her family left Latvia as she did not have money to pay for renting an apartment.

Eventually she asked her brother, who is residing in Germany, for rent money, but in late August the family packed up and left for Germany.

During conversations with journalists, it was discovered that Bunana learned that she has a mentor assigned to her only three months after she had arrived. 

Mentors under fire

Robel and his wife arrived to Latvia in February, and he took up work at the Mucenieki asylum seekers' center as an interpreter.

He and his wife, a hairdresser, live in a small apartment which employees of the center helped him find. Furthermore, a Mucenieki employee lent him money for the two months' security deposit, which he is now slowly paying back.

"The mentors asked me whether I want to live here, and what I would like to do...then, where I want to live, and whether I want a single-room or two-room [apartment]. I said the first...then [they asked] - do you have money to pay two months' rent?," he said.

"I sometimes don't have enough money to buy food, sometimes I drive on the bus without a ticket and run away from the ticket inspectors. And they're asking me whether I can pay two months' rent?" he said.

Mentoring services for the refugees are provided by the Latvian Red Cross starting April. The Red Cross won a tender worth €40,000, which Aizliegtais paņēmiens concluded have been spent on absolutely nothing. About €700,000 more is to be spent on mentoring services during the next few years.

It was a mistake to cut benefits, says Interior Ministry

"The main problems, as we saw on yesterday's show, are the lowered benefits and the inability to find a place of residence, and, following that, a place to work," said Ilze Pētersone-Godmane, State Secretary at the Interior Ministry told Latvian Television Tuesday. 

She claimed the job market poses a problem as well, as it's difficult finding work for even a few months due to the language barrier.

"If [the refugees] start requesting repeat asylum in other EU countries, for example, Germany, it will be a signal that Latvia has not fulfilled its obligations," she said.

Last year, Latvia cut refugee benefits from €256 a month to €139 a month for family heads, and €97 for additional family members. 

While Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis told Latvian Television on Tuesday that the problem with rent deposits could be solved by allowing to withdraw the benefit for the 12th month right after a person has been recognized as a refugee. 

"I have said before, defending our position over slow admission of refugees, that we have no experience in admitting these people, and we have to learn the steps we have to take on our own," said Kučinskis, commenting on Latvia's difficulties in integrating refugees.

Those leaving face uncertain future

Appearing on Latvian Radio Monday, Didzis Melbiksis, Riga consultant at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said that the refugees leaving Latvia might face further problems should they not return.

"A person who has been granted a refugee or alternative status in Latvia can travel freely just like us. And there's a set number of days in a year the person can spend outside Latvia's territory, but...they have a residency and work permit only in Latvia," he said.

"For the first five years they cannot settle down and work in another EU country...if they really do move to another country they won't be able to stay and work legally," said Melbiksis.

Latvia has admitted 69 asylum seekers under the EU refugee relocation scheme.

Latvia has committed to taking in 531 asylum seekers in two years. Most of them will be relocated from EU member states Greece and Italy, but 50 people have to be relocated from third countries.

Seen a mistake?

Select text and press Ctrl+Enter to send a suggested correction to the editor

Select text and press Report a mistake to send a suggested correction to the editor

Society
Society