Resettled in Baltics, refugees flee for wealthier lands
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