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Monday 09.12.2019 | Name days: Sarmīte, Tabita

Lithuania scowls at EU request to ease Greece and Italy migrant deluge

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULinas Jegelevičius for the BNN

With nearly one-third of the national budget coming from the EU coffers, Lithuania basks in the European support, but when it comes to helping the old continent buffer the illegal migrants’ deluge Lithuania says «no».

«At the moment, we are really not able to accommodate up to 710 refugees. We have talked on the subject in the government and we are about to draw a draft ordinance, which envisions placing from 30 to 40 refugees in Lithuania,» told Algirdas Butkevičius, the Lithuanian PM, this week after being asked if Lithuania is ready to accept that number of refugees, mostly from the war-ravaged Syria and northern Africa.

«Unprepared to see many refugees»

Addressing the migrant’ crisis, the European Commission has said it wants to move up to 710 refugees to Lithuania and 207 of the number will be moved to the country in mandatory order.

Lithuanian officials are supposed to go over the rest requests of asylum over the next two years. For now, the asylum seekers are granted temporary stay in Italy and Greece from which territorial waters they were picked up.

«This is obviously a hot potato for the European Union, especially its old-timers, but it’s hard to tell how Lithuania should act in regards to the issue. On one hand, obviously, we have to come and help the EU countries burdened with the largest influx of migrants, but, on the other hand, it obvious we just cannot accept so many of the refugees. We simply do not have necessary facilities that would house the mass of people. As much I understand the challenge the migrants pose to the European Union and the necessity to help it with the people, as much unprepared, perhaps, to see the army of refugees here in Lithuania,» Pranas Žeimys, a conservative Lithuanian MP, told BNN.

Some of the Lithuanian lawmakers BNN spoke to did not hide their xenophobic views.

«So do we want that army of black people [he used a pejorative word] to spread out in the country and procreate here?» told a politician, known for his blunt remarks.

A EU study on migrants integration shows that Lithuania is on the very EU bottom in preparedness to take care of migrants.

Migrant quotas set

Until now the EU countries would grant asylum to refugees voluntarily upon their rescue, but with their recent deluge, triggered mostly by the Syria and Libya crises, Italy and Greece sought help with the hordes in the European Commission.

Dimitri Avramopoulous, the Commissioner in charge of EU Migration, Home affairs and Citizenship, was the first to respond to the plea of help and told that the illegal migrants will be moved from Italy and Greece to other European Union’s member states.

The so-called migrant quotas have been set for all EU member states with regard to their population number, economy capacity, unemployment rate and previously accepted refugees.

According to the scheme, the bulk of Greece and Italy’s refugees, 3086 persons in total, will be transferred to Germany and the country will have to review another 8673 asylum requests.

The Commission proposes Latvia to accept 220 migrants and go over 517 similar requests, meanwhile, Estonia is asked to accommodate 326 refugees and consider additionally other 668 applications.

Some of the European countries, like Hungary, for example, has already announced it will not help the European Union with the burden.

Meanwhile, some other nations, like Great Britain, Ireland and Denmark, had opted out of the scheme earlier.

Percentage-wise, Germany, France and Italy would need to place most of the refugees rescued off the coast of Italy and Greece- respectively 18.42, 14.17 and 11.84 percent. Lithuania’s share would comprise a mere 1.16 percent of the total.

Research: Lithuania provides poor integration

However, Lithuania is hardly ready to deal even with the tiny share shows the newest findings by the international EU-funded research «Migrant Integration Policy Index» or MIPEX2015.

The researchers were aiming to find out EU member states’ readiness and capability to integrate migrants.

Among the criteria were labour market mobility, education, political participation, citizenship obtainment, family coalescence, health protection, anti-discrimination and permanent residency issues.

Of 38 European countries, Lithuania was placed 34th in the ranking and the researchers’ advice Lithuania to improve migrants’ integration.

Notably, the study points out that non EU citizens, especially with a temporary permit to live and work in the country, as well as high-skilled workers, do not receive usual or specialized support, which would enable them to get a job according their skills.

Europe has to be considerate

Jurgis Razma, an influential Conservative member of the Lithuanian Seimas (Parliament), told BNN the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (HU-LCD), known as conservatives, have not yet had time to discuss the EC Migrants Commissioner proposal for Lithuania, but said he hoped the social-democrat-led government will «responsibly» take on the issue.

«But, frankly, the number the Commission has come for Lithuania, up to 720 migrants, seems to be just too big for a small country like Lithuania. I think the Government has to negotiate the figure and see it lower,» Razma pointed out. «Lithuania, certainly, has been and is being helped much by the European Union, but as much as we want to reciprocate, the limits of our capabilities should be taken into account. Even the fact that the refugees have not entered Lithuania, but did do through other countries, so I reckon tackling the issue of illegal migrants in terms of prevention must be on the European agenda. Besides, let me say frankly, even if we accept the people, they will most likely end up being in Western Europe which is richer and more diverse,» the MP underlined.

Meanwhile, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė told BNN, a Lithuanian news agency, EU member states should be given the right to decide themselves whether to accept refugees from Greece and Italy and how many of them to accept.

«Lithuania disapproves of mandatory movement of refugees. We are in favour of the voluntary principle for EU member states to accept refugees,» the president told.

Analyst: three things need to be done

Vytautas Bruveris, a political analyst, emphasizes two things: first, Lithuania is hardly capable of addressing emergency situations like that and, second, Lithuania, as a state, is not willing to show solidarity the European Union in tackling the issue.

«If Lithuania refuses to help the European Union with the task in the volume it is being asked, it will send a bad message to the Union, especially now when we rely on its support and security guarantees amid the geopolitical tensions,» Bruveris told BNN.

However, on the other hand, he says he can understand the Lithuanian officials’ concerns when it comes to request.

«It is quite plausible that the arguments of the prime minister and interior minister on our limited capacity regarding the request are reasonable. Look, we are talking about an army of 700 people, not a few dozens,» noted the analyst.

Bruveris paid attention that, until now, the European Union has been grappling with the aftermaths of the exacerbating problem, but has done little to prevent that from happening.

«What needs to be done is to address the reasons of the phenomena. First, (address) the situation in the countries from which the people flee for their lives, second, the poverty and oppression that some of the countries are notorious for and, third, the European Union has to find tools to crackdown the massive human smuggling, which is part of the activities of international gangs,» Bruveris insisted.

Ref: 020/

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