On 10 January, the Cabinet of Ministers (CM) examined the information report prepared by the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on changes to the Repatriation Law in order to solve the issue of increasing the interest of Russian citizens to move to permanent residence in Latvia.
In the light of the information contained in the information report, the CM instructed the Ministry of the Interior to prepare amendments to the Repatriation Law and the Immigration Law, which would provide for the granting of a temporary residence permit for five years to recipients of the status of repatriate and their family members. If during these five years the person has continuously resided in the Republic of Latvia and acquired the official language at A2 Level, then the repatriate has the opportunity to receive a permanent residence permit. It is also intended to provide for a transitional period after which the grant of the material benefit to repatriates is suspended and the operation of the Repatriation Law is suspended.
Although various mechanisms have been put in place that temporarily prevent Russian citizens from entering Latvia, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine there is an increasing number of applications for residence permits received by Latvian diplomatic and consular missions abroad and forwarded to the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, especially from Russian citizens — repatriates.
If, at the beginning of the operation of the Law, the repatriation flows were more evenly distributed between the directions of Eastern and Western countries, the status of repatriate or his/her family member has been granted to Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian citizens in 85% of cases since 2010, with the proportion of Russian citizens reaching 62% on average over a 12-year period (Belarus – 5%, Ukraine – 18%).
In 2022, the proportion of Russian citizens has already reached 81% of the total number of granted statuses of a repatriate or his/her family member. The number of applications increased in particular at a time when the Russian invasion of Ukraine threatened Russia’s economic and international stability. In 2022, 430 applications from Russian citizens have already been received, while 220 Russian citizens have been granted the status of a repatriate or a family member of a repatriate.
In the same time, when examining applications for repatriation, the OCMA has identified a different, equally worrying trend — a large proportion of false documents. In recent years, approximately 217 inspections have been carried out on suspicion that the document has been forged, at least 80 criminal proceedings have been initiated, at least 200 residence permits have been annulled or refused.
In view of the above, it can be concluded that the current repatriation procedure should be transparent and the operation of the Repatriation Law should be discontinued, because the actual flow of repatriation to Latvia no longer conforms to the basic idea included in the Preamble of the Law to facilitate the return of those compatriots who have left Latvia due to threats of genocide, war or assimilation to their ethnic homeland.
In the current circumstances, persons are granted the status of repatriate, the moving expenses are covered and the monthly benefits provided for in regulatory enactments are paid, but in fact most of these persons do not stay in Latvia, but after receiving the benefits continue to live in their country of origin or go to another European Union Member State in search of employment.