Saeima gives itself power over admitting refugees

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The Latvian parliament in the third and final reading on Thursday passed amendments to the Asylum Law, stipulating that Saeima is to decide over all matters related to admitting refugees, reported LETA news agency.

The amendments stipulate that Saeima makes decisions regarding all matters related to the relocation of asylum seekers from other member states or third countries to Latvia, as well as matters directly or indirectly related to this issue.

So far the decision had to be made by the government whose decision -- the national position -- is backed by the parliament European affairs committee.

The amendments provide that minor asylum seekers will be ensured a possibility to learn the Latvian language in state or municipal schools.

The amendments also ensure transposition of the EU directives in Latvian legislation. The European Commission had previously started an infringement procedure against Latvia for failure to fully implement two directives in relation to asylum seekers.

One of the chief amendments to the law is that interviewing of asylum seekers will be conducted by the Citizenship and Migration Affairs Board instead of the Border Guard.

Latvia so far has agreed to admit 766 asylum seekers from other EU member states, and the amendments will not refer to this decision.

The amendments define several terms and principles in relation to admission of asylum seekers that had not been properly defined in the previous version of the Asylum Law.

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