Residence permits to Russians a risk says security agency

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The growing number of Russian citizens who have bought Latvian residence permits poses a potential collective security threat, a senior member of the state's security services said Wednesday. 

Speaking to the parliamentary committee for defense, internal security and corruption prevention,  Ints Ulmanis, deputy head of the Latvian Security Police (DP) said that while individuals might not pose a threat, the sheer numbers of Russians with residency was creating a critical mass that could be a problem.

"From a security point of view, the most significant aspect is that increasing numbers of residence permit holders are Russian citizens... while individual citizens may not pose a threat to national security, given Russia's rhetoric that it is prepared unconditionally to defend its compatriots abroad, it could increase the security threat," Ulmanis said.

Russians had various reasons for wanting Latvian residence permits, he added.

"Some people like the fact that here things are orderly and within Europe. Other people obtain permits in order to travel throughout other Euopean countries and in practical terms are not resdent in Latvia," Ulmanis said.

The large numbers of applicants were stretching DP's resources as they tried to perform background checks, Ulmanis said. In 2012 2,770 checks were carried out, with the number rising to 4,196 in 2013. 

By August this year, DP had already carried out 3,847 checks, Ulmanis said.

Following the introduction of legislation that allowed people buying real estate or depositing lump sums into local banks to apply for residency, the number of temporary residence permits issued jumped markedly from 2,495 in 2010 to 4,824 in 2011, 6,365 in 2012 and 7,353 in 2013 according to official figures.

Russian citizens account for the overwhelming majority of applicants with supporters of the resident permit scheme arguing they have brought hundreds of millions of euros into the local economy and propped up a real estate market that underwent total collapse during the economic crisis of 2008-10.

At the start of 2014 there were more than 48,000 holders of permanent residency permits in Latvia and 23,000 holders of temporary permits.


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