Lithuanian parliament must have a say on refugee numbers, Seimas speaker says

Loreta Graužinienė
DELFI / Kiril Čachovskij

The country’s expenses would rise if a large number of refugees were accepted, she says, stressing that the parliament makes the final decisions on the country’s budget.

“These issues are related to economic, integration, social and psychological matters, and our society must be prepared. Therefore, the Seimas has to vote and take responsibility for this issue,” the speaker said.

Graužinienė also believes Lithuania is now not ready to handle “a large refugee influx” and also suggests differentiating between war refugees and economic migrants.

“I think we should take this into account and accept people who are being persecuted for their religious convictions, because of the war situation. But speaking about economic migrants, the question is whether the state has sufficient resources to provide them with social support, etc.,” Graužinienė said.

The Government of Lithuania has committed to accepting 325 refugees over the next two years but it acknowledged earlier this week that the number is likely to increase.

Interior minister: proposal is rational

Lithuania’s Interior Minister Saulius Skvernelis says Seimas Speaker Loreta Graužinienė’s proposal for the parliament to decide on the number of refugees Lithuania could take in is “rational”.

“I believe it’s an issue worth discussing and is rather rational. (…) In any case, today the Seimas gives a mandate and defines a position through parliamentary committees, but there’s a possibility for the whole Seimas to do that. If such a decision is made, it would be even better,” Skvernelis told journalists on Tuesday morning.

Skvernelis also said that the question of how many refugees Lithuania would accept should be addressed not to the Ministry of the Interior, which is in charge of ensuring security and taking care of legal procedures, but to the Ministry of Social Security and Labour.

Committee chair: no need to put it before entire parliament

Gediminas Kirkilas, the Social Democratic chairman of the Seimas Committee on European Affairs, sees no need for the entire parliament to discuss the issue of how many refugees Lithuania could accept.

In his words, under the Statute of the Seimas, such issues are discussed by the Committee on European Affairs where all parliamentary groups are proportionally represented. Besides, it’s the largest Seimas committee as a sixth of all lawmakers belong to it.

“I don’t see so far the need for it. The government will, first of all, deliberate it, make decisions, and then we’ll discuss the government decision and will back it or not. If the government creates conditions and finds funds etc., what can the Seimas add to it? Our committee is the largest one and all groups are proportionally represented. Every party or political group can give one or another mandate to its members. So I don’t see the need for the whole Seimas to discuss it,” Kirkilas told BNS on Tuesday.

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