Re­set­tled in Baltics, refugees flee for wealth­ier lands

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

In early Novem­ber, 34 Syr­ian and Iraqi refugees boarded buses head­ing for Ger­many from Lithua­nia, the coun­try where they had been re­set­tled. No one ex­pects them to re­turn. Only a tiny num­ber of refugees from war in the Mid­dle East have been sent to Lithua­nia, Latvia and Es­to­nia, among the Euro­pean Union’s poor­est coun­tries. The Baltic states were no­body’s first choice. “When we left from Tur­key to Greece, our fi­nal goal was Ger­many or Hol­land,” said Mo­hamed Kamel Haj Ali, 52, once a shop­keeper in Syria, who for the time be­ing still lives in Rukla in Lithua­nia.

“But the land route from Greece was al­ready closed, so we had no choice but to en­ter the re­lo­ca­tion pro­gram, which brought us here.” Seventy-two out of the 90 Syr­i­ans and Iraqis re­set­tled to Lithua­nia from Greece or Tur­key, and granted refugee sta­tus un­der its EU quota, have since left, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial fig­ures. “The ones who left (for Ger­many) said they left Syria out of fear of death from bombs, but here they feared they would die from hunger,” said Haj Ali. “So they took the risk and left.”

refuge in other mem­ber states. Some de­stroy their iden­tity doc­u­ments af­ter leav­ing the Baltics, in the hope of claim­ing refugee sta­tus anew in richer coun­tries like Ger­many. But Haj Ali, who is in touch with some of the refugees who took the buses from Lithua­nia to Ger­many, says things are bet­ter there. “They are sat­is­fied liv­ing in a Ger­man refugee cen­tre, and are re­ceiv­ing ev­ery­thing they are en­ti­tled to,” he said.

More than half of the 63 refugees given asy­lum in Latvia un­der its EU quota have left, ac­cord­ing to an es­ti­mate by the Lat­vian Red Cross. The Euro­pean Union is strug­gling to im­ple­ment its 2015 agree­ment to share 160,000 refugees across 28 mem­ber states. Only about 7,500 have been re­set­tled so far. Poland has re­fused to ac­cept its quota of 7,000, and Slo­vakia has called for the scheme to be scrapped. “We can’t hold them here by force,” said Ri­hards Ko­zlovskis, in­te­rior min­is­ter of Latvia. —Reuters

PARIS: Two women hold a sign read­ing ‘Paris, city of raids, not refuge’ dur­ing a de­mon­stra­tion in sup­port of mi­grants and refugees in Paris. —AFP

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