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Lithuania: Resettled refugees are leaving the country

The departure of a second refugee family, Syrian parents and their three children, was reported on 27 September. This announcement follows that of another resettled family, this time from Iraq, 3 weeks ago.

The Syrian family had already found accommodation and the father, a job in the construction sector, when Red Cross workers discovered that they were no longer living in Lithuania; 4 months after their resettlement from a camp in Turkey. So far, it is still unclear were they are headed to but they will continue to receive benefits for another three weeks and to have legal protection. In the case of the Iraqi family too, the father had a job. However, he confided previously that the salary did not cover all expenses. The family is currently living in Sweden.

Charity organisation Caritas, which helps migrants in their integration process, explains that refugees know little about Lithuania before their relocation/resettlement and think that benefits and wages in the country are as high as in Germany. To address this issue, the Government is currently discussing the possibility to make refugees sign a paper stating their knowledge of integration benefits before their arrival in Lithuania.

The country has committed to take in 1,105 people over two years under the EU resettlement programme. Since then, the Ministry of Social Security and Labour has shortened the length of integration programmes and reduced integration allowances by 50 %, which resulted in critics from the UN's refugee agency and migration experts who emphasise that low integration benefits incite refugees to leave Lithuania for Nordic and Western European countries. While refugees receive €700 per person per month in Germany, in Lithuania, €200 is monthly allowance. Around 100 Syrians and Iraqis have been relocated to Lithuania until now.

The situation in Lithuania is however not as bad as in Latvia, where 21 of the 69 relocated refugees have left for Germany.

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