Most refugees unwilling to remain in Lithuania – one was returned only to disappear again

AP / Scanpix

Of the 344 refugees moved to Lithuania based on the EU programme, 248 have departed the country and so far none have been forcibly returned.

While most leave in search of greater welfare, there have been success stories among those who remained – successful employment and settling in, one refugee family has already had a child in the country.

According to Migration Department director Evelina Gudzinskaitė, most of the displaced people are of working age, among the Syrians there are typically families with two-three, sometimes even five children.

“The children are of various ages, there is even a woman who gave birth here in Lithuania, another family is also expecting soon,” said E. Gudzinskaitė.

Students and workers among the refugees

According to the Migration Department director, among the displaced people, there are some who found opportunities to continue their studies in Lithuania, ones they had to abandon due to the war in Syria. One person known to her is studying land use, another – pharmacy.

The majority of the refugees are however, according to her, labourers, men with specific professions – driver, tailor, oil pipe welder or cook.

“Meanwhile the majority of the women are housewives, though some have worked as teachers, tailors or hairdressers,” said E. Gudzinskaitė.

The majority of individuals arriving from Eritrea are individuals who have just finished school or those who did not manage to finish in time.

Enjoying Rukla

Upon arriving in Lithuania, refugees are housed at the Rukla Refugee Centre, where they can spend up to three months. According to the Migration Department director, most people enjoy it there so much, they are uninvlined to move anywhere.

“Recently we had colleagues visiting and making a video about transferred refugees, they commented that compared to what they saw in other countries, we have provided very good conditions,” E. Gudzinskaitė noted.

While they live in Rukla, the refugees receive 71.40 euro disbursements for living costs and minor expenses. In the centre they are also given clothing, household, laundry and personal hygiene goods, a bed, bedding, heating, water and electricity.

While they live at the centre, the refugees have to study Lithuanian. According to the Refugee Centre director Robertas Mikulėnas, the refugees who are motivated to remain and continue living in Lithuania are those who put in the most effort.

“Those who have chosen Lithuania, they think hard about learning Lithuanian, they are truly motivated. As for those who have no motivation, they find it difficult. Those who are truly committed to remaining and living in Lithuania study,” said R. Mikulėnas.

Beginning to settle

After three months, transferred individuals are given a 204 disbursement for settling, which they receive monthly for half a year, with a 102 disbursement for a further six months.

While Lithuanian legislation dictates that they are responsible for finding their own work and home upon departing Rukla, the Refugee Centre director assured that they are assisted in this by Caritas and the Lithuanian Red Cross.

“We both seek and help in finding housing. There is also the language barrier because most of them arrive only speaking Arab and there are only a handful English speakers,” stated R. Mikulėnas.

According to the centre’s data, currently there are 41 refugees living in the municipalities. Both the head of the centre and the Migration Department assured that a portion of them have managed to settle quite well, they have found jobs and are satisfied with it.

“Those who speak English were particularly fortunate, some of the first arrivals were employed at Western Union. A number are employed, the problem is that when they arrive, they expect to perform qualified work, but based on our requirements, their qualification is not satisfactory, thus they are only offered simpler work, with, of course, lower wages than they expect,” explained E. Gudzinskaitė.

Many leave for elsewhere

Of the 344 refugees transferred to Lithuania, the majority – 248, have left the country. The head of the Refugee Centre said he has no information on what countries the individuals departed for.

“On average they stay in Lithuania for three months, while they live with us. After three months they settle their documents, until migration grants or does not grant a permit to live in Lithuania and then they decide accordingly,” said R. Mikulėnas.

The official explains he has heard from transferred individuals that they seek better livelihoods for their children.

“It is no secret that Lithuanians leave for the exact same reasons,” R. Mikulėnas was uninclined to judge, adding that no individual who has departed has been forcibly returned to Lithuania.

“So far no-one can return them forcibly, there was an attempt to return one, however he vanished somewhere during the return trip from Germany. None have been returned so far,” said R. Mikulėnas.

Based on EU quotas, Lithuania is obligated to accept 1105 asylum seeker.

Of the 344 transferred individuals, 302 were transferred from Greece, 17 from Italy and 25 from Turkey. Most come from Syria, while 16 were from Eritrea and 20 from Iraq.

EU cautions Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic

Migration will be one of the topics of the Thursday European Council meeting in Brussels. The leaders of Europe will once again reaffirm that the migrant crisis should be resolved through effective control of external borders, fully implementing the EU-Turkish agreement and will express the need to reform the Common European Asylum System.

The European Commission initiated procedures against Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic for not adhering to the agreement on refugee transfers. If the countries do not take steps, this will allow the European Commission to take steps which could lead to financial penalties which could be assigned by the European Court of Justice.

About Dalia Plikune 52 Articles
Žurnaliste dirbu nuo 2006 metų. Rašau vidaus ir užsienio politikos temomis. Savo darbe siekiu paprasto tikslo būti efektyvia reportere, o tai reiškia būti patikimu informacijos šaltiniu savo auditorijai. Kaip yra sakęs buvęs ilgametis BBC žurnalistas ir redaktorius Alexas Kirby, iš kurio turėjau galimybę mokytis – geras žurnalistas yra dvejojantis optimistas ir viltingas skeptikas. Stengiuosi tokia išlikti. Dirbau korespondente naujienų agentūroje ELTA, dvejus metus rašiau Lietuvos žiniasklaidai iš Paryžiaus ir Briuselio, stažavausi prancūzų dienraštyje "La Croix". Esu baigusi Vilniaus universiteto Tarptautinės komunikacijos magistro studijas.
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