Migrant Integration Governance in Lithuania
Lithuania is a country of emigration. The number of Lithuanians leaving the country is higher than that of immigrants arriving. While the latter is gradually increasing, it still remains 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.
On 1 January 2017, a total of 38 500 Third Country Nationals (TCNs) were living in Lithuania. 20 258 had temporary residence permits and 18 079 were permanent residents.
According to the Migration Department’s Migration yearbook 2016, they represented a little more than 1% of the total population. Most came from neighbouring and ex-URSS states Ukraine (1581), Belarus (1157) and Russia (841).
Out of the 15 137 permits issued in 2016, most were for work (6 618), family reunification (2 958) and studies (2 439).
In addition to the foreign population, there are also Lithuanian nationals with third country background; 139 of which were naturalised in 2016. No aggregated data on Lithuanian citizens with third country background are made available.
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 course
- campaigns on migrant workers’ rights
- non-formal education programmes for foreign children
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.
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 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
At the municipal level, the Refugee Reception Centre and the Public Employment Service provide integration services such as language courses, psychological help, legal assistance, as well as support in finding accommodation, in collaboration with non-profit organisations. These are open to both refugees (after a 3-month period at Reception Centre) and other Third Country Nationals.
There are no official nor unofficial evaluations of the Action Plan published so far.
☑ 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 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. In May 2017, another 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 an 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. The legislation establishes 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.
The Law on Equal Treatment, introduced 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, investigation and appeal processes. The Latest amendment of the law was made in July 2017 and included specificities related to employers, advertising and consumer protection.
The Ministry of Social Security and Labour is the main responsible for matters relating to the integration of foreigners. It is the leading institution coordinating the implementation of the Action Plan for Integration and representing 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 are to participate in the organisation of migrants’ integration, as provided by the Law on Legal Status of Aliens. Given that the Law does not specify their role, their involvement remains limited. Efforts are nevertheless being made at national level to overcome structural challenges and to establish systematic coordination and cooperation between different governance levels. In September 2016, the Ministry of Social Security and Labour for example appointed Integration Officers in certain municipalities.
There is a consultative committee on integration in Lithuania, as provided by the 2013 amendment (art. 109) of the Law on the Legal Status of Aliens and by 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.
Non-profit organisations and local authorities can apply for financing through several funds and separate calls for proposals/tenders. EU’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) is the most important one. Coordinated by the Ministry of Social Security and Labour, the basic national allocation for Lithuania under AMIF is € 9 632 277 €. 30% of this amount is allocated to asylum and 34% to integration. National integration priorities presented in the Lithuanian AMIF programme were reflected in the 2015Integration Action Plan and include the development of the national integration strategy itself, the provision of information and services through 3 integration centres and websites, and efforts to promote tolerance, to monitor the integration process and to enhance cooperation between the competent institutions and organisations.
In addition, national funds are made available on an ad hoc basis for service providers and other stakeholders to carry out projects aiming for a better integration of the migrant population.
☑ Providing integration services
- IMO Lithuania
- Soros International House (SIH)
☑ Implementing Integration Programme
- IMO Lithuania
- UNHCR Lithuania
- Diversity Development Group (DDG)
- Euro House
- Non-Governmental Organisations Information and Support Centre
- Center for Equality Advancement