- Title: Resettled in the Baltics, refugees flee for wealthier lands
- Date: 28th November 2016
- Summary: RUKLA, LITHUANIA (NOVEMBER 23, 2016) (REUTERS) LITHUANIAN COAT OF ARMS AND EU FLAGS WAVING ON THE WIND EXTERIOR OF REFUGEE RECEPTION CENTRE SIGN READING (Lithuanian): "REFUGEE RECEPTION CENTRE OF MINISTRY OF SOCIAL SECURITY AND LABOUR OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA" VARIOUS OF REFUGEES IN CORRIDOR LITHUANIAN COAT OF ARMS LIST OF LITHUANIAN LANGUAGE EXERCISES VARIOUS OF REFUGEES AT LITHUANIAN LANGUAGE LESSON TEXTBOOK SOUNDBITE (Arabic) REFUGEE FROM SYRIA, MOHAMED KAMEL HAJ ALI, SAYING (ACCORDING TO OFFICIAL TRANSLATION) "When we left from Turkey to Greece, our final destination was Germany or Holland. But the land route from Greece was already closed, so we had no choice but to enter the relocation programme which brought us to here." PHOTOGRAPHS ASSEMBLED ON THE BOARD VILNIUS, LITHUANIA (NOVEMBER 23, 2016) (REUTERS) EUROPEAN COMMISSION OFFICE IN LITHUANIA EUROPEAN UNION FLAG VARIOUS SPOKESPERSON FOR EUROPEAN COMMISSION OFFICE IN LITHUANIA, GIEDRIUS SUDIKAS, WORKING BOOKS (SOUNDBITE) (English) SPOKESPERSON FOR EUROPEAN COMMISSION OFFICE IN LITHUANIA, GIEDRIUS SUDIKAS, SAYING: "Overall, we see that the system is picking up and the system is working. Again, there are important safeguards to prevent the movement (of refugees). So, again that's linked to the people's right to reside or to work - if they move to another country they cannot apply for work, they cannot reside, they cannot get benefits. And if they are apprehended in that other member state, they have to be returned to the state of relocation." VILNIUS, LITHUANIA (NOVEMBER 22, 2016) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF MIGRATION DEPARTMENT OFFICE SIGN READING (Lithuanian) "MIGRATION DEPARTMENT OF MINISTRY OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS" VARIOUS DIRECTOR OF MIGRATION DEPARTMENT, EVELINA GUDZINSKAITE, AT WORK FOLDERS WITH DOCUMENTS (SOUNDBITE) (English) DIRECTOR OF MIGRATION DEPARTMENT, EVELINA GUDZINSKAITE, SAYING: "So far, from what we know, they usually tend to go to rejoin their families which are residing in other member states, or they would prefer living in the communities which are also formed outside Lithuania. But of course some other relocated people are complaining that it is quite complicated to find a place to live, an apartment in Lithuania. And then of course the financial opportunities in Lithuania are, let's say, more limited than what they imagine they could have in other member states." FLAGS ON CUPBOARD VILNIUS, LITHUANIA (NOVEMBER 24, 2016) (REUTERS) U.N. HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES (UNHCR) OFFICE IN LITHUANIA UNHCR REPRESENTATIVE IN LITHUANIA, RENATA KULES, LEAVING ROOM SIGN OF UNHCR OFFICE (SOUNDBITE) (English) UNHCR REPRESENTATIVE IN LITHUANIA, RENATA KULES, SAYING: "I think that it shows that the system needs improvements and developments. I would not say it's a failure, because there are cases where people stay, but yes we should stress that there is a need for improvement and more work on making the integration more efficient here." UNHCR POSTER
- Embargoed: 13th December 2016 11:27
- Keywords: migrants EU quota Baltics
- Location: VILNIUS, RUKLA, LITHUANIA
- City: VILNIUS, RUKLA, LITHUANIA
- Country: Lithuania
- Reuters ID: LVA0015ACZ5TL
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: In early November, 34 Syrian and Iraqi refugees boarded buses heading for Germany from Lithuania, the country where they had been resettled. No one expects them to return.
Only a tiny number of refugees fleeing from war in the Middle East have been sent to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, among the European Union's poorest countries. The Baltic states were nobody's first choice.
"When we left from Turkey to Greece, our final destination was Germany or Holland," said Mohamed Kamel Haj Ali, 52, once a shopkeeper in Syria, who for the time being still lives in Rukla in Lithuania.
"But the land route from Greece was already closed so we had no choice but to enter the relocation programme, which brought us here."
Under EU rules, refugees are forbidden to work or claim refuge in other member states. Some destroy their identity documents after leaving the Baltics in the hope of claiming refugee status anew in richer countries like Germany.
But Haj Ali, who is in touch with some of the refugees who took a bus from Lithuania to Germany, says things are better there.
Seventy-two out of the 90 Syrians and Iraqis resettled to Lithuania from Greece or Turkey who were granted refugee status under EU quota have since left, according to official figures.
More than half of the 63 refugees given asylum in Latvia under its EU quota have left, according to an estimate by the Latvian Red Cross.
The European Union is struggling to implement its 2015 agreement to share 160,000 refugees across 28 member states. Despite this, the European Commission sees the relocation scheme as a success, said Giedrius Sudikas, spokesman for the commission's office in Lithuania.
"Overall, we see that the system is picking up and the system is working," he said, adding that the laws forbidding settlement in other EU countries are a sufficient deterrent for those looking to leave.
Only about 7,500 people have been resettled so far under the EU's quota system. Poland has refused to accept its quota of 7,000 and Slovakia has called for the scheme to be scrapped.
In the Baltic states, benefits are limited. Lithuania pays a refugee family of two parents and two children 450 euros a month for the first six months. After that payments are halved.
Estonia provides free accommodation for two years in addition to financial benefits. Not one of its allocated 77 refugees is missing, its interior ministry said.
The Baltic countries have little history of immigration, so refugees lack community connections and there are few jobs.
"So far, from what we know, they usually tend to go to rejoin their families which are residing in other member states, or they would prefer living in the communities which are also formed outside Lithuania. But of course some other relocated people are complaining that it is quite complicated to find a place to live, an apartment in Lithuania. And then of course the financial opportunities in Lithuania are, let's say, more limited than what they imagine they could have in other member states," said the head of the migration department at Lithuania's Interior Ministry, Evelina Gudzinskaite.
Haj Ali, who has only just won refugee status, said he too planned to leave for Germany with his wife and two adult children unless he could find work and affordable housing in Lithuania before the six-month deadline when his benefits will be halved.
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