(Updates throughout the text)
In the June-July period, 5,701 persons came to Lithuania to live here permanently or for at least a year, which is an increase by 57 percent year-on-year (from 3,639).
According to the statistics, the majority of the immigrants are returning Lithuanians, however, the numbers of arriving foreigners is also gradually growing.
“Within seven months of this year, returning Lithuanian citizens accounted for 63 percent of all immigrants. Throughout the whole calendar of 2016, citizens of Lithuania made 71 percent of all immigrants,” Birutė Stolytė, spokeswoman for Statistics Lithuania, told BNS.
Experts say arrival of Ukrainians may have been spurred by the visa-free travel to the European Union (EU) introduced in June.
Interior Vice-Minister Giedrius Surplys says there had been many cases when “Ukrainians come here legally as tourists, find an employer and apply for a work permit”.
In his words, the second reason is the EU directive on posted employees, which allows companies in third countries meeting certain requirements to post their staff to work in the EU.
Higher immigration could also be a result of the government’s decision to facilitate employment of 27 types of professionals from abroad to improve the local business environment, said the vice-minister.
“There are fears among our migration staff and consular staff that the flows may be big. We are thinking about ways of boosting our capacities,” he told BNS.
Ukrainians account for over half of foreigners employed in Lithuania, with 11,000 Ukrainian citizens arriving in the Baltic state last year. Critics say that open doors to immigrants may halt increase of wages and cause social tensions.
No Decline of Emigration Levels
No decline has been reported in emigration from Lithuania, with the level remaining above last year’s figures. In July, 4, 652 persons left Lithuania, up by 7 percent month-on-month and 1 percent year-on-year.
Last year, Lithuania lost about 30,000 residents due to emigration to Western Europe, the figure stands at over 21,000 over the first seven months of 2017.
Some experts say that the faster emigration pace in the first half of the year is a temporary tendency, as some of the emigrants may have rushed to declare their emigration to avoid the duty of paying mandatory health insurance, while others may have rushed to Great Britain before the country introduces restrictions before Brexit.
Opinion polls show that the majority of emigrants swap Lithuania for Western Europe because of higher wages, emigration can also be spurred by large income inequality.
Lithuania’s population shrank from 3.7 million residents in 1990 to 2.8 million people this year due to emigration and aging.
The scope is alarming, as businesses start lacking employees, making it more difficult for the state to finance pensions, health care and education.