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Governance of Migrant Integration in Lithuania

Lithuania has historically been a country of emigration. In the past, the number of Lithuanians leaving the country was higher than that of immigrants arriving. However, according to Statistics Lithuania, since April 2019, the number of immigrants arriving in Lithuania has been higher than the number of people leaving the country, though arrivals remain relatively low in the EU context. In terms of asylum, Lithuania first opened its borders to refugees in 1997. However, the country has since then received relatively few applications and has never become a major destination country.

Statistics

On 1 January 2019, a total of 49,332 third-country nationals (TCNs) were living in Lithuania (excluding stateless people). 33,181 had temporary residence permits and 15,143 were permanent residents. 796 people had residence cards based on being a family member of an EU citizen, and 61 people had permanent residence on this basis.

According to the Migration Department’s Migration Yearbook 2018, foreigners made up a little more than 2% of the total population. Most TCNs were from neighbouring and ex-USSR countries Ukraine (16,927), Belarus (12,204) and Russia (12,592).

Integration Strategy

To integrate or foster the social inclusion of these populations with non-EU background, Lithuania’s current policy is based on its 2018–2020 Action Plan on the Integration of Foreigners into Society. It includes provisions regarding the allocation of resources, the cooperation among state institutions and service providers, as well as the monitoring migrant integration. It particularly focuses on:

  • joint language and vocational training courses
  • fighting discrimination
  • empowering migrant and refugee women
  • monitoring integration policies and processes
  • creating networks between migrant communities and the receiving society
  • improving access to the labour market, education, health care, etc.

In addition, the 2018-2030 Strategy for demography, migration and integration aims to promote decent working and living conditions to foreigners, strong and inclusive local communities, trust in state institutions and a tolerant receiving society. 

The previous Action Plan for the Implementation of the Policy for Foreigners Integration provided for:

  • information on the accessibility of integration services
  • campaigns about the positive aspects of migration
  • a consultative integration body with state and non-governmental actors
  • an improved law on the recognition of foreigners’ professional qualifications

This Action Plan was drafted in line with the Migration Policy Guidelines published in 2014.

Integration Programme

Lithuania has an integration programme which is an entitlement rather than obligation. Foreigners who are applying for or granted asylum, as well as Ukrainian nationals with a Lithuanian background, are offered a wide range of integration activities – language courses, culture classes, employability advice sessions, assessment of skills, legal assistance, etc. An introduction to the Lithuanian labour market and psychological support are also offered.

☑ language courses

☑ civic education

☑ vocational training

Following the receipt of refugee status or subsidiary protection, beneficiaries of international protection are housed in the Refugee Reception Centre (RRC), where integration support is provided for up to three months.  After three months in the RRC, integration continues in municipalities, where support is provided by NGOs and lasts up to 12 months. The duration of the integration programme is 15 months in total, with the possibility of prolonging it for vulnerable groups (people with physical or mental health problems, large families with small children, people with a low level of education, etc.).

RRC staff members coordinate their efforts for three months with social workers and the Lithuanian Labour Exchange to assist refugees in various ways. This includes evaluating personal skills and qualifications, providing vocational training courses and assisting in job searches (in this last task, the local Labour Market Training and Consulting Authority also joins in the efforts).

In addition, refugees are able to attend intensive Lithuanian language courses in order to be better prepared to access the labour market. Following the initial three months of support provided by RRC staff, during the remaining 12 months, NGOs assist refugees in municipalities. Support by NGOs is provided through “one stop shops” for immigrants and beneficiaries of international protection. NGOs provide ongoing advice to help refugees in various areas of integration, including the labour market. Advisers provide relevant information related to employment in Lithuania, inform about the conditions for starting a business, assist in searching for a work place and registering in the Lithuanian Labour Exchange.

There is no specific integration programme for other third-country nationals. However, they are entitled to the support provided by NGOs in “one stop shops”.

Evaluation

There are no official or unofficial evaluations of the Action Plan published so far.

Legislation

☑   Foreigners Law

The Law on Legal Status of Aliens was adopted in April 2004. It covers the procedures of entry and departure, residence, asylum and temporary protection, as well as the integration of aliens. The last amendments made in July 2018 extended the duration of stay of foreign graduates and academics to 9 months after the completion of their studies or research. A May 2017 amendment introduced new health insurance requirements for residence permit applicants.

 Asylum Law

Lithuania does not have a self-standing Asylum Law. The Law on Legal Status of Aliens covers asylum.

☑   Integration Law

Lithuania does not have a self-standing integration law. The Law on Legal Status of Aliens covers integration. There is also a Government decision on the Procedure for the Provision of National Support for Integration to Persons Granted Asylum, as well as other decisions which foresee integration measures for other groups of foreigners.

☑   Nationality Law

The Lithuanian Law on Citizenship was introduced in December 2010. This legislation established the basic rules, conditions and processes for the acquisition and deprivation of Lithuanian citizenship. Minor amendments made in June 2016 allowed individuals who left Lithuania before March 1990 to keep their Lithuanian citizenship when they acquire a second one.

☑   Anti-discrimination

The Law on Equal Treatment, approved in November 2003, ensures the enjoyment of human rights and prohibits all forms of discrimination on the grounds of age, sexual orientation, racial or ethnic background, disability and religion or belief. It also outlines acts of individual and institutional violations and mandates the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman to supervise complaints, investigations and appeals processes. The latest amendment of the law was made in July 2017 and makes specifications related to employers, advertising and consumer protection.

Public authorities

The Ministry of Social Security and Labour is the main responsible body for matters relating to the integration of foreigners. It is the leading institution coordinating the implementation of the Action Plan for Integration and represents Latvia at the European Integration Network. However, other institutions, such as the Migration Department of the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Health, are responsible for specific integration measures in their fields.

In addition to state organs, municipalities participate in the organisation of migrants’ integration, as provided for in the Law on Legal Status of Aliens. Given that the Law does not specify municipalities’ role, their involvement remains limited. Efforts are nevertheless being made at the national level to overcome structural challenges and to establish systematic coordination and cooperation between different governance levels. For example, in September 2016, the Ministry of Social Security and Labour appointed Integration Officers in certain municipalities.

Civil society

There is a consultative committee on integration in Lithuania, as provided for in the 2013 amendment (art. 109) of the Law on the Legal Status of Aliens and in the 2015 Action Plan for Integration. Its membership consists of ministers or vice-ministers of Social Security and Labour, Interior, Education and Science, Culture, Finance, Foreign Affairs, Health, as well as representatives of the Association of Local Authorities in Lithuania and of non-governmental institutions.

Funding

  EU Funds

Non-profit organisations and local authorities can apply for financing through several EU funds. In addition, national and private funds are made available for service providers and other stakeholders to carry out projects aiming for a better integration of the migrant population.

  • Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) in Lithuania

Details

The basic national allocation for Lithuania under AMIF is €68.35 million. The national integration priorities presented in the Lithuanian AMIF programme include the development of the national integration strategy itself, the provision of information and services through three integration centres and websites, and efforts to promote tolerance, monitor the integration process and to enhance cooperation among the competent institutions and organisations. 

National managing authority

The national managing authority for the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) in Lithuania is the the European Social Fund Agency under the Ministry of Social Security and Labour. In 2020, it launched a website dedicated to AMIF's programme and projects in Lithuania

  • European Social Fund (ESF) in Lithuania

Details 

The Lithuanian multi-fund Operational Programme aims to boost Lithuania's economic development, as well as to tackle a number of issues including social exclusion. The ESF contributes with over € 1 billion, out of which close to 10% is dedicated to facilitating social inclusion with focus on the educational system.

National managing authority

The national managing authority for the European Social Fund (ESF) in Lithuania is the European Social Fund Agency under the Ministry of Social Security and Labour

  • Other EU funds for integration available in Lithuania 

ERASMUS+, the EU’s programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe

National managing authority: the national agency Education Exchanges Support Foundation

European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to strengthen economic and social cohesion in the EU by correcting regional imbalances

National managing authority: Central Project Management Agency

Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD), offering material assistance to the most vulnerable or in need

National managing authority: European Social Fund Agency under the Ministry of Social Security and Labour

European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), supporting the development of rural economies and communities

National managing authority: National Paying Agency under the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Lithuania

European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), which supports coastal communities in diversifying their economies and finances projects that create jobs and improve quality of life along European coasts

National managing authority: National Paying Agency under the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Lithuania

 Other Funds

Other stakeholders

☑  Providing integration services

☑  Implementing Integration Programme

☑  Campaigning

☑  Publishing research and statistics