Lithuania welcomes Belarusians as it rebuffs Middle Easterners
Lithuania, despite being one of the most welcoming countries for Europeans, has said it will not extend residency permits to foreign workers from countries such as Iran, Iraq and Syria.
On Friday, more than 5,000 Belarusians were greeted by cheering crowds as they arrived in Vilnius to begin a week-long sabbatical.
A branch of Kuwait’s central bank opened its doors to lads from different Middle Eastern countries.
The country, which borders Russia and Latvia, is a thriving tourist destination.
“Welcome fellow first timers to my country, to Estonia, Lithuania,” Vilnius Mayor Dana Riste said.
“It’s not that I don’t like newcomers – it’s just that we have enough already.”
Latvia was one of the first states to host migrant workers, seeing 50,000 Iraqi employees come in 2006. But the post-conflict situation in Iraq made some immigrants apprehensive about their future and, according to a study by the UN’s refugee agency, only 8,000 Iraqis stay in the country, compared to the estimated 130,000 before the war.
At the same time, it is expanding immigration routes, opening a new island to Muslims from Turkey in an effort to draw more in, and offering a six-month residence permit to workers from Iran, Iraq and Syria as well as Cuba.
Latvia wants more immigrants as the number of Latvians without permanent residency visas outstrips the domestic labour force. The present population of 1.8 million includes immigrants from Russia and former East Bloc countries as well as thousands from Hungary, Poland and Lithuania.
The current immigration policy attracts people “to come to Latvia, because it’s going to work,” said Oskars Palšys, the chairman of parliament’s culture committee.
The Czech Republic has recently increased efforts to increase its immigrant population after the country became a popular destination for Eastern Europeans fleeing war zones.
Germany, which typically benefits from the influx of migrants and refugees, also wants more.
More than 4,000 Middle Eastern and North African asylum seekers were registered in 2017 – half of them from Syria.
In 2015, to deal with the refugee crisis, the Czech Republic took in 12,000 asylum seekers from Iraq. In 2016 it took in 22,000 of Syrians alone, and it returned 63,000 people during that same year, according to the country’s internal security service.
It’s unclear how many would-be immigrants the country would be interested in admitting and how many would apply.
Bulgaria welcomed more than 250 workers from Jordan and Syria in 2016, and has welcomed more this year.
The number of migrants from those two countries has increased every year from 2013 to 2016. The country, with a population of 7.4 million, has not recorded any influx from Iraq since 2011, according to the Interior Ministry.
This year, the ministry said 1,122 Iraqis applied for residence permits. Last year, 3,301 Syrians sought citizenship or permanent residency in the country.
Although a large number of Balkan countries accept applications for permanent residency from foreigners applying for asylum or a refugee status, such as Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia and Albania, none has benefited from massive immigration from Syria and Iraq, in part because most migrants are poor and jobless.