Last week, a Lithuanian delegation led by Jankevičius visited Italy; previously, the group had been to Greece. Lithuanian officials discussed refugee selection and resettlement procedures with local authorities and international organizations.
In a press conference on Monday, Deputy Minister Jankevičius presented further plans for refugee resettlement in Lithuania. Although it had been previously reported that the first group of asylum seekers could arrive in the country in early November, it is quite unlikely, the minister says.
According to Jankevičius, Italian and Greek officials have yet to draft lists of refugees who could be resettled in Lithuania. Once the lists are ready, the refugees could come to the country soon afterwards.
“We went to Italy and Greece to sort out logistics. We needed to know which airports these people would be flying from, which airports in Lithuania they’d land in, if they’d be accompanied, where we would perform security checks. It was important to see the screening procedure, to meet the people involved in the refugee resettlement programme,” Jankevičius told reporters.
He said the procedures he observed in Italy and Greece left him with a good impression. Although some 10,000 migrants arrive in these countries each day, everything is handled efficiently, according to the Lithuanian deputy minister.
“Italians and Greeks have to compile lists of people who could come to Lithuania. The lists will include information about their country of origin and their goals. We will then inspect the lists, Lithuania will be able to choose who will come and who won’t. The list will be compiled according to our preferences. We said that we preferred families from different regions of Syria. It would also be an advantage if they spoke at least one EU language,” Jankevičius said.
According to him, the lists will also contain information about the refugees’ faith and professional training, but these will not be used as criteria.
Deputy Minister of the Interior Jankevičius also said that almost all countries taking part in the refugee resettlement programme submitted their preferences. Procedures would vary in each accepting country, however. Before coming to Lithuania, asylum seekers will undergo health checks and will be interviewed. Many other countries will carry out similar procedures after arrival. Jankevičius notes that the EU’s biggest countries admit refugees more easily.
According to Jankevičius, transportation costs might stand at EUR 6,000 per refugee. Part of it will be covered by the EU, but Lithuania will have to chip in some EUR 500.
The European Commission wants the refugees to spend at least five years in the countries that will accept them, Jankevičius adds, although it is still unclear how that will be ensured.
Once in their host countries, refugees will enjoy freedom of movement within the EU. Jankevičius says that the authorities will not mind if they spend a week or two abroad, but if they leave for extended periods of time, they will risk losing their benefits. Their movement will be monitored by the Ministry of Social Security and the Ministry of the Interior.
The migrants will live in Lithuania as asylum seekers and will receive a two-year residency permit. After that time the permit might be extended.
Asked about his impressions from meetings with refugees in Italy and Greece, Jankevičius said: “They are families with small children, sad, gloomy faces. Ordinary people who evoke human compassion, at least in me.”
Why should the refugees choose to come to Lithuania rather than some other more affluent EU country? “Peace and future for their children,” Deputy Minister Jankevičius said.
Lithuania has pledged to take in 1,105 refugees from Syria, Iraq and Eritrea over the coming two years.