Latvia claims too many Russian nationals are exploiting repatriation rules not meant for them
The government in Riga may decide later this week to suspend the 1995 repatriation law, in order to block Russians from obtaining citizenship in the Baltic state using the rules intended for ethnic Latvians, Delphi reported on Monday.
According to the outlet, the two ministries have compiled a report citing a “growing” Russian interest in moving to Latvia, and attributing this to the conflict in Ukraine. While the 12-year average of Russian citizens among those seeking Latvian papers has been 62%, it spiked to 81% in 2022, “at a time when the economic and international stability of Russia was under threat” due to the conflict, the report claims.
Riga received 430 repatriation applications from Russian citizens in 2022, of which 220 were granted, Delphi revealed. However, the interior ministry complained that these people had no relatives or residence in Latvia, or in some cases never visited the country, and “probably” intended to use the permits to live in the EU instead.
“The trend to obtain a residence permit just to be able to comfortably move around the Schengen countries has been particularly pronounced during the travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” the report says, according to Delphi. Many of the applications “frankly expressed” their intent to “enjoy the benefits provided by a permanent residence permit” rather than actually live in Latvia.
The two ministries also claimed that the interest in permits spiked after Russia announced a partial military mobilization in September, but if the report contained evidence of this, Delphi has not chosen to cite it.
Noting that the law was passed with the idea to bring back to their “ethnic homeland” the Latvians who relocated “due to the threat of genocide, war or assimilation,” the ministries will recommend replacing it with a more conditional scheme, requiring proof of continued residence and a language test.
Latvia had 2.65 million residents when it split off from the Soviet Union in 1991, but that number has since decreased to about 1.88 million. Ethnic Russians make up about a quarter of the population, and the government has advocated “isolating” them unless they demonstrate loyalty.
Riga has taken a hardline stance over the conflict in Ukraine, using it as a pretext to dismantle all WWII monuments to the Soviet army and declare Russia a “terrorist state.”
January 10, 2023 at 03:22AM