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What's the difference between 'refugee' and 'alternative' status in Latvia?

With the artificially-created crisis on the borders of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland with Belarus creating a great deal of coverage, those involved are variously described as migrants or refugees, and their exact legal status is further complicated by applications for 'protection' or 'alternative status'.

Now the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (PMLP) has sought to clarify matters with a useful guide to the correct terminology and the different legal statuses of people arriving at the border.

Furthermore, the explanatory text is available in Latvian, Russian and English via the links below.

The text of the PMLP's explanation is also reproduced below: 

Who is granted refugee status?

Refugee status can be granted to a person who is outside the country of his or her citizenship or previous home country (if a person is a stateless person) and cannot return to it because of a well-founded fear of persecution in the country of his or her citizenship or previous home country for reasons of

  • race
  • religion
  • nationality
  • social background
  • political opinion.

Who is granted alternative status?

It is granted to a person if there is reason to believe that:

  • the person is subject to the death penalty or corporal punishment, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or degrading punishment in the country of citizenship or in the previous country of residence (if the person is a stateless person);
  • because of widespread violence caused by international or internal armed conflicts, the person needs protection and cannot return to the country of his or her citizenship or to his or her former home country (if he or she is a stateless person).

Who can receive temporary protection?

Temporary protection may be granted to a group of persons who have left their country due to ethnic conflicts or civil war. Temporary protection gives the right to reside in Latvia for a certain period of time.

The issue of granting temporary protection is decided by the Cabinet of Ministers.

Who can apply for the refugee or alternative status?

Any person, except citizens of Latvia, non-citizens and persons who have received the status of a stateless person in Latvia, may apply for the refugee or alternative status.

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