What is an asylum seeker?
According to the legislation of the Republic of Latvia, asylum seeker is a person who has submitted an application regarding granting refugee or alternative status.
The refugee status can be granted if a person has justified fear of persecution in his or her country of nationality or previous country of residence
(if a person is stateless) due to his or her:
- membership of a social group; or
- political views.
The alternative status can be granted to a person if there is a reason to believe that:
- this person is at risk of being exposed to death penalty or corporal punishment, torture, inhuman or degrading attitude, or degrading punishment in his or her country of nationality or previous country of residence (if a person is stateless);
- this person requires protection due to international or domestic armed conflicts and he or she cannot return to his or her country of nationality or previous country of residence (if a person is stateless).
A group of people that has left their country due to ethnic conflicts or civil war may be granted temporary protection. Temporary protection ensures the right to stay in the Republic of Latvia for a certain period of time. The matter of temporary protection is decided by the Cabinet of Ministers.
Who can apply for the refugee or alternative status?
Any person except for citizens and non-citizens of the Republic of Latvia, and people who have received the status of a stateless person in Latvia can apply for the refugee or alternative status. However, this person must have a justified reason (see above) to be granted one of the statuses described above.
How to submit the application for the refugee or alternative status?
The application must be submitted to the State Border Guard at a port of entry or its territorial unit.
After receiving the application, the officers of the State Border Guard conduct an interview with the asylum seeker. The reasons for requiring asylum are identified during the interview. To clarify the issues relevant for making the decision of granting or refusal to grant the refugee or alternative status, the asylum seeker is obliged to cooperate with the institutions involved in the process of granting asylum and to provide all the information at his or her disposal that is relevant for making the decision.
If a person does not have a legal basis to reside in the Republic of Latvia, such as a valid visa or a residence permit, the person is accommodated at the Centre for Asylum Seekers “Mucenieki” during the reviewing of the application.
How long is the term for making the decision?
A decision is made within three months (the term of reviewing may be extend to up to twelve months due to justified reasons), and the person is familiarised with it immediately. The asylum seeker has the right to appeal a negative decision of the Asylum Affairs Division in the administrative district court.
What kind of a document is issued to an asylum seeker, a refugee, and a person who has acquired the alternative status?
The State Border Guard issues a personal document to an asylum seeker for the period of the procedure of granting asylum. It gives the right to stay at an accommodation centre for asylum seekers and to be outside the territory of the centre. Being outside the territory, however, requires a permission of the administration.
A refugee receives a permanent residence permit and a travel document, which is also a personal identification document.
A person who has acquired the alternative status receives a temporary residence permit. If a person who has acquired the alternative status does not have a valid personal identification document and it is not possible to receive it, the person receives a travel document.
What are the rights of a refugee and a person who has acquired the alternative status?
A person with a refugee or alternative status shall have economic, social, individual, and other rights and freedoms, as well as obligations laid down by Chapter VIII “Fundamental Human Rights” of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia. A refugee and a person who has acquired the alternative status have the right to reunification of family and receiving a living allowance. In addition to the rights specified above, a refugee has the right to leave and return to Latvia, and to receive an allowance for learning the official language.