Lithuania to accept 325 refugees over 2 years

Most, 255, refugees will come to Lithuania from Italy and Greece and 70 will arrive from third countries, the president told BNS via her press service.

The decision was made during the meeting of interior ministers on the distribution of refugees in Brussels.

All in all, EU member states will over the next two years share 40,000 refugees from Syria and Eritrea who currently live in camps in Italy and Greece, as well as 20,000 Syrian refugees who live outside the EU.

EU leaders agreed to share the refugee burden after thousands of people drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to get into Europe from Africa and the Middle East.

Brussels previously suggested that Lithuania accept 710 refugees but the calculation formula was later changed for the benefit of small countries.

According to Grybauskaitė, the new formula, which is based on a country’s population and GDP, was proposed by the Baltic states.

“I think the number is real, objective and we can handle it. It’s more than half of what the European Commission initially proposed,” the Lithuanian president said.

Fifteen Iraqi Christians fleeing the Islamic State arrived in Lithuania early this month, invited by the Catholic Church.

Interior minister wants to pick refugees

Lithuania’s minister of the interior says the country will hold negotiations with Italy and Greece for refugees relocated to Lithuania to be selected according to the country’s national security interests, the needs of its labour market and cultural aspects.

In an interview with BNS, Saulius Skvernelis acknowledged that the Monday meeting of EU interior ministers in Brussels was “heated and stormy”. During the meeting, Lithuania made a commitment to accept 325 refugees, mainly Syrians.

According to the minister, EU countries realize that the distribution of 60,000 refugees is not “putting the fire out”, therefore, they also focus on border protection and returning refugees to the countries of their origin.

“We plan to actively participate in the process, talk to Italy and Greece that those persons we would like to relocate meet our country’s national security interest, other interests, perhaps the needs of our labour market, perhaps social, cultural and historic aspects. We should send our liaison officers to actively participate in this process,” the minister said.

“It was very heated and stormy meeting, and one of the conditions is that they would be allowed to leave the country they receive asylum as all those quotas and solidarity would lose its meaning. They will have documents of an asylum seeker or a refugee and they will include that condition. If they are detained in the wrong country, they will face the return and sanctions,” Skvernelis said.

The minister also said that a Lithuanian helicopter and two crews are leaving on August 1 for the mission of protecting the external borders of southern countries in the Mediterranean Sea.

During the ministerial meeting, Estonia made a commitment to accept 150 refugees. Latvia will take in 250 and Poland and Germany will receive 2,000 and over 12,000, respectively.

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