Asylum seekers in Latvia

23. November, 2015

Foto: Nicolas Raymond

Background paper including unique data from October and November 2015 about asylum seekers currently staying or having already left the Mucenieki centre for asylum seekers in Latvia.

Until recently Latvia’s asylum policy, while much more stringent than in most other EU countries, remained largely outside the scope of public attention because very few people from the so-called third countries – countries outside the EU – applied for asylum in Latvia. The number of asylum seekers in Latvia has grown in recent years, but the total numbers of asylum applications still remained very low, on par with Slovenia and slightly above Estonia.

At this rate, one cannot say that Laimdota Straujuma’s government declaration (2014), promising a stringent asylum and migration policy, proposed anything new regarding the Latvian asylum system.

Before the European Commission began to promote the plan to relocate refugees from Italy and Greece to other EU member states and before the action plan for receiving persons in need of international protection was adopted, the political consensus in Latvia remained in favour of a very strict asylum policy which would make positive decisions exceptional.

The action plan for receiving persons in need of international protection – the national document under the EU refugee plan – covers most aspects of the new procedure for refugees to be relocated from Italy and Greece. Its implementation may have impact on some of the aspects of asylum process and integration of the current asylum seekers who are already in Latvia. Its main target group, however, are refugees who have not yet arrived in the country.

Despite that, public debates often include statements on all asylum seekers being uneducated, indifferent or hostile to human rights, and interested in a life sustained from social benefits of the EU member state welcoming them.

While we cannot provide an analysis of asylum seekers that Latvia is ready to welcome early in 2016, a brief analysis of the situation of current asylum seekers in Latvia and their profile may provide some background for the national authorities and society to enable evidence-based decision making. This background paper (Asylum seekers in Latviapdf) could also be of interest to European and international partners following Latvia’s asylum policy and practice given that migration policy by definition requires international cooperation.

This publication is supported by the Europe for Citizens programme of the European Union. Responsibility for the content of this publication lies with the Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS.


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