Latvia

 

2014

  • Rank: 37 out of 38
  • MIPEX Score: 31
  • LABOUR MARKET MOBILITY 46
  • FAMILY REUNION 55
  • EDUCATION 17
  • HEALTH 17
  • POLITICAL PARTICIPATION 13
  • PERMANENT RESIDENCE 53
  • ACCESS TO NATIONALITY 17
  • ANTI-DISCRIMINATION 34

Key Findings

Changes in context

  • A country of emigration home to the largest number of non-EU citizens (15.3%) long-settled or born in LV
  • Number of new permits dropped dramatically from 7,700 in 2008 to 2,300 in 2009 but recovered by 2013
  • Employment rates dropped from around 75% in 2008 to 67% in 2009 and slowly recovered to 71% in 2014, above the EU average
  • The LV general public has highest levels of anti-immigrant attitudes in EU with only a minority saying in 2012 that immigrants enrich LV economically and culturally (19%) or deserve equal rights like LV citizens (30%) 

Key Common Statistics

Country of net migration since:% Non-EU citizens% Foreign-born% Non-EU of foreign-born% Non-EU university-educated % from low or medium-developed (HDI) country
x15.3%13.8%90%27%18%
UN 2010 data in 2013Eurostat 2013Eurostat 2013Eurostat 2013Note: Adults aged 18-64, Eurostat 2013Eurostat 2013

Changes in policy

Little has improved in LV's integration policies since 2010. Policies towards newcomers remain ad hoc and project-based through EU funds, while the general framework for non-EU citizens remains unchanged. 

The 2013 Citizenship Act was a major step forward for stateless/non-citizen children, but a missed opportunity for immigrant integration. LV's score only climbed +1 point on MIPEX as a result, as dual nationality was allowed as an exception for naturalising foreigners and Latvians abroad, but only for refugees with certain nationalities: EU member states, European Free Trade Association member states, NATO member states, Australia, Brazil and New Zealand. This change is an important symbolic first step, it is also an indicator of the continued difficulties of discussing integration in LV. Dual nationality for other foreign nationals is still seen in LV as a disincentive for integration with many risks and few benefits, contrary to the experience of other countries adopting dual nationality.

Conclusions and recommendations

LV still has the weakest integration policies among the EU Member States, as its current approach creates almost no targeted support and many more obstacles than opportunities for non-EU citizens to participate in society. LV scores 4-6 points behind the next lowest-scoring countries (including LT) and far below EE (46). LV's slight areas of strength were required by the EU (family reunion and permanent residence) and still weaker than the policies in most other European countries. If immigration increases, schools, hospitals, employment services and local communities may need greater targeted support to equally service immigrants and benefit from their skills (see improvements in EE, CZ, PT, Nordics). 

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POLICIES - SUMMARY

  • LABOUR MARKET MOBILITY

    Score:

    Latvia
    vs.
    MIPEX 38
    • 28 of 38
    • Potential Beneficiaries

      38%
    • Real Beneficiaries

      5%
  • FAMILY REUNION

    Score:

    Latvia
    vs.
    MIPEX 38
    • 28 of 38
    • Potential Beneficiaries

      5%
    • Outcome Indicators

      1
  • EDUCATION

    Score:

    Latvia
    vs.
    MIPEX 38
    • 33 of 38
    • Potential Beneficiaries

      5%
  • HEALTH

    Score:

    Latvia
    vs.
    MIPEX 38
    • 38 of 38
  • POLITICAL PARTICIPATION

    Score:

    Latvia
    vs.
    MIPEX 38
    • 33 of 38
    • Real Beneficiaries

      24%
    • Real Beneficiaries

      0%
  • PERMANENT RESIDENCE

    Score:

    Latvia
    vs.
    MIPEX 38
    • 30 of 38
    • Potential Beneficiaries

      99%
  • ACCESS TO NATIONALITY

    Score:

    Latvia
    vs.
    MIPEX 38
    • 38 of 38
    • Potential Beneficiaries

      97%
    • Outcome Indicators

      1%
  • ANTI-DISCRIMINATION

    Score:

    Latvia
    vs.
    MIPEX 38
    • 33 of 38
    • Potential Beneficiaries

      4%
    • Outcome Indicators

      25755

Labour Market Mobility

Key Findings

More targeted support may be necessary to address the specific obstacles facing newcomers and long-settled non-EU citizens not in employment, education or training

Potential Beneficiaries

How many immigrants could be employed?

38% of working-age non-EU citizens in LV were not in employment, education or training in 2011/2, according to the EU Labour Force Survey. These levels were higher in LV than in most European countries on par with ES & GR and around 5% higher than in EE & LT. The number not in employment, education or training were higher amongst women (43%) than men (35%) and 2 times as high for the low-educated than the high-educated. 

Policy Indicators

Do immigrants have equal rights and opportunities to access jobs and improve their skills?

LV's labour market mobility policies only go halfway towards addressing the sizeable minority of non-EU citizens not in employment, education or training. Newcomers can improve their skills and job prospects with equal access to education, training and study grants since 2010, but with the same social and unemployment benefits as permanent residents and LV citizens. Permanent residents face obstacles to access certain sectors. This approach is likely insufficient to overcome the specific obstacles facing foreign-trained and non-native LV speakers. Both newcomers and permanent residents could benefit from specific tailored approaches, but targeted support is currently weak in LV (like LT but less than EE, DE, Nordics).

Dimension 1: Access to labour market

  • Many newcomers to Latvia, as in its Baltic neighbours and most countries, will not have an immediate equal right to work or self-employment
  • Non-EU residents must fulfil many conditions to enter the private and public sectors or to set up a business, which can have a disproportionate impact on their ability to work (these conditions are rare within the developed world)

Dimension 2: Access to general support

  • LV made its greatest improvements in labour market integration through general support (+50 from 2009-2011)
  • Non-EU newcomers can take advantage of new opportunities to acquire LV skills and degrees. The 2010 Education Law granted equal access to education, training and study grants (as in NO and several Central and Southern European countries)
  • A single procedure was also created to validate professional skills
  • Gaps still emerge for the formal recognition of non-EU academic and professional qualifications (see EE, DE, FI, NL, SE, UK)

Dimension 3: Targeted support

  • Targeted support is missing in LV (and LT), except for basic info on the recognition of foreign qualifications (see box)

Dimension 4: Workers' rights

  • The restricted rights of non-EU temporary workers limit their support to find jobs in LV, ranked 23rd behind EE, DE, Nordics
  • Prior to obtaning permanent residence, they do not have equal access to unemployment, social or housing benefits in the same way as LV citizens

Policy Box

Newcomers could benefit from programmes to access employers/self-employment and get into general support: get qualifications recognised, mother-tongue orientation, job-specific LV skills, and domestic degrees, networks or experience. Permanent residents could also benefit from job-specific LV skills, peer-to-peer mentoring and activation measures. In comparison, EE facilitates the recognition of foreign qualifications and skills. Its Integration Strategy and Foundation offer many free hours of EE training with job-specific EE courses (vocational, public sector), targeted programmes for youth and a newcomer adaptation programme with mother-tongue orientation and a support person. 

Real beneficiaries

Are immigrants acquiring new skills?

Working-age non-EU citizens are less likely to take up education and training in LV than in most European countries. In 2011/2, just 5% in LV said that they recently participated in some form of training (as low as GR, IT, SI and similar to EE vs. 12% in LT). Moreover, most of the unemployment non-EU citizens in LV do not benefit from unemployment benefits. Only around 1/4 of working-age non-EU citizens in LV (and EE) who were unemployed last year received any unemployment benefit, as opposed to 1/3 on average in Europe.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether immigrants find skilled and well-paid jobs?

  • Most working-age non-EU-born in LV have their highest degree from LV, a major asset for labour market integration
  • Above-average employment rate (around 70%) and ≥2% average GDP growth in the Baltics since 2010 
  • Slightly more rigid employment protection legislation in LV than on average in developed countries 
  • Hardly any recent migrants coming with temporary work or study permits 

Outcome indicators

Are immigrants employed in qualified and well-paid jobs?

Labour market integration does happen over time in LV as in the average European country, according to 2011/2 data from the European Labour Force Survey. Working-age non-EU-born men and women with 10+ years' stay are just 10% less likely to be employed if university-educated (76% employed in total) and near 15% less likely if low-educated (42% employed), with slightly lower rates for women. These outcomes are relatively similar to EE/LT and most other European countries. Non-EU-born and LV-born workers differ little on two main indicators of employment quality. Long-settled non-EU-born men and women with university degrees are 40% more likely to working in jobs that do not require a university degree (28% vs. 20%). Low-educated non-EU and LV-born workers are almost just as likely to experience in-work poverty, with wages and benefits below the level of their social needs (20% vs. 22%).

Family Reunion

Key Findings

LV's family reunion policies are more discretionary than in most countries, with relatively few non-EU families willing or able to reunite in the country

Potential Beneficiaries

How many immigrants are potentially living in transnational couples?

Around 5% of non-EU adult citizens in LV are not living with their spouse or partner and may be internationally separated couples entitled to family reunion. Interestingly, this level is also relatively high for LV citizens. The numbers were comparatively lower in EE. 

Policy Indicators

How easily can immigrants reunite with family?

Non-EU residents in LV have less favourable opportunities to reunite with their families than in the average European country and in nearby EE, LT, and PL. The procedure has as many favourable as unfavourable elements. As across Central Europe, discretionary procedures may undermine favourable eligibility provisions and legal conditions. If reunited, families do enjoy basic rights, as required by EU law. 

Dimension 1: Eligibility

  • Residents with ≥1-year-permits can immediately apply to reunite with their spouse and minor children
  • Going against international trends, they cannot reunite with their same-sex partner (see 26 countries, e.g. LT) or long-term partner (see 17)
  • They have to wait to become permanent residents to reunite with adult parents and have few opportunities to reunite with adult children (see instead CZ, SI, EE, LT)

Dimension 2: Conditions

  • Non-EU sponsors must meet basic conditions similar to other countries, though fees are slightly lower in several countries, e.g. EE
  • To meet their family's needs, they must have any basic legal income and housing

Dimension 3: Security of status

  • In contrast to EE’s clearer legal framework, family members in LV are critically insecure about their application and status, more so than in any of the other 37 countries
  • Authorities have wide grounds for discretion for rejection and withdrawal
  • In procedures they are not required to consider families’ personal circumstances, nor allow for judicial oversight, unlike in the vast majority of countries

Dimension 4: Rights associated

  • The rights of family members are slightly favourable to their integration
  • Reunited families experience similar rights and obstacles in EE as in most countries (e.g. LT, EE, FI)
  • Adult family members benefit from the same socio-economic rights as their sponsor (e.g. work, education/training, social/housing benefits)
  • Adult family members can only become autonomous residents after a long period (5 years for long-term residence permit), without clear legal entitlements for vulnerable non-EU families (see most Western European countries)

Real beneficiaries

Are families reuniting?

Every year between 400-1,500 non-EU family members reunite with a non-EU citizen in LV. In 2013, the numbers peaked at around 3,000. These small numbers are comparable to other small countries of recent immigration, including EE and LT. In 2012 and 2013, just as many children reunite as spouses, with a small number of other family members able to reunite in LV. The nationalities of these families reflect LV's major countries of origin.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether immigrants reunite with family?

  • Mostly long-settled and ageing families, with relatively few newcomers likely living in transnational families 
  • Most with the eligible or permanent permits to sponsor 
  • Many from developed/neighbouring countries and thus less likely to reunite in Baltics

Outcome indicators

How often do immigrants reunite with family?

Non-EU family reunion is relatively rare in the EU and even rarer in LV and EE. Out of every 100 non-EU residents in the average EU country, only 2.2 are newly arrived non-EU family members. In LV that rate reached 1 out of every 100 in 2013 and well far below that in earlier years. A family's choice to reunite is certainly driven by individual and contextual factors, such as lower needs for family reunion among LV's long-settled non-EU-born population. Still, policies can quickly function as obstacles to the right to family reunion, with disproportionate effects on the most vulnerable groups. 

Education

Key Findings

Only ad hoc measures and projects to address the needs and opportunities of LV's few newcomer pupils or to make intercultural education a reality

Potential Beneficiaries

How many pupils have immigrant parents?

The diversity of LV's school population reflects the Baltics' unique history of immigration and settlement. As in most Central European countries, LV receives relatively few foreign-born pupils, comprising just 0.4% of 15-year-old pupils, according to the 2012 PISA study. Instead, most pupils with immigrant parents in LV are 2nd generation born in the country, accounting for 4.3%. Due to its history, LV has relatively few pupils attending schools where the language of instruction is different from their language at home. Only 20% of these 1st and 2nd generation pupils do not speak at home their school's language of instruction (similar to EE and LT). 

Policy Indicators

Is the education system responsive to the needs of the children of immigrants?

Scoring 5th from the bottom, LV schools lack much of the basic infrastructure to welcome newcomer pupils in terms of their access, needs, new opportunities and a broader approach to intercultural education. LV still has few policies to ensure all newcomer pupils, whatever their background, participate and achieve like others, or to help all to learn how to live in a diverse society. Financial and targeted assistance to newcomers is ad hoc and largely EU funded, with no clear policy besides teaching the language of instruction and the language of the family. These policies are generally weak in Central Europe (similar in PL, LT see instead CZ, EE). 

Dimension 1: Access

  • All children can access compulsory education, as well as general support for disadvantaged pupils
  • Gaps emerge for undocumented pupils in pre-primary and vocational education (see instead 16 other countries, including EE)
  • Newcomer pupils cannot benefit from specific targeted measures to avoid early school leaving and help them access different types of schools (see EE Nordics, AT, KR, PT)

Dimension 2: Targeting needs

  • Newcomers are provided ongoing support to learn the language of instruction on an ad hoc basis, with some central quality standards  
  • Targeted support addresses newcomers' specific needs based on available ad hoc funding
  • Newcomer pupils are not guaranteed support persons and extra teachers, while schools do not receive extra funding to cover these expenses per pupil (see emerging initiatives in CZ, EE, PL)

Dimension 3: New opportunities

  • Minority languages is the only 'opportunity' that the LV education system supports
  • Besides the major minority languages in LV, a few other languages (e.g. UA, PL) are taught as supplementary subjects in publicly funded schools, sometimes on the basis of bilateral agreements regarding teachers and training materials
  • Speakers of other immigrant languages do not receive this support, unlike in 22 other countries (similar weakness in EE and LT)
  • No other policy exists on social integration programmes or support staff for newcomer parents (see EE)

Dimension 4: Intercultural education

  • Appreciation of cultural diversity is supposed to be taught as part of the compulsory education curriculum
  • Schools are free on how and whether to make intercultural education a reality, with no particular state funding, guidance or monitoring 
  • Pre-service and some NGO-based in-service training is available on a voluntary basis

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether the children of immigrants excel at school?

  • 3/4 of 1st/2nd generation also speak the school's language at home with parents in EE as in other Baltic and Central European countries
  • Student-teacher ratios are relatively low in LV and Baltics

Outcome indicators

How well are the children of immigrants achieving at school?

Low-achievement seems to be a general problem for pupils from low-educated families in LV, regardless of their origins. Comparing foreign-born and non-immigrant pupils with low-educated mothers, the foreign-born are just as likely to be low-achievers on PISA math tests (44%) as LV-born pupils with low-educated mothers (43%). Neither do major differences arise in EE.

Health

Key Findings

Migrant patients benefit from more limited entitlements and information in LV and the Baltics than in most countries

Policy Indicators

Is the health system responsive to immigrants' needs?

LV does almost nothing to integrate and orient newcomer patients into the health system, which is expected to deal informally with any specific health needs in LV, RU or EN. Its targeted health policies are the weakest of all 38 MIPEX countries, alongside only HR and SI and far below average even for Central Europe. Basic healthcare entitlements are limited for asylum-seekers and missing for temporary residents and undocumented migrants. Health services are only made accessible to newcomer patients by providing information on these limited legal entitlements. 

Click here to learn more about how MIPEX health was developed with IOM and EU’s COST/ADAPT network through ‘Equi-Health’ project and co-funded by European Commission’s DG SANTE. 

Dimension 1: Entitlements

  • Entitlements undermined more in LV and the Baltics than in most countries
  • Only permanent residents and EU/EEA citizens enjoy equal access to state-guaranteed medical services as LV citizens; temporary residents must pay the full costs or use private insurance 
  • Medical services are guaranteed for refugees, but asylum-seekers depend on the approval of ERF-funded project committees
  • Undocumented migrants are only guaranteed access to medical services if they are detained or can get by with free medical consultations over the phone 
  • Free treatment from certain infectious diseases is available for migrants regardless of their legal status
  • To access healthcare, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants face administrative discretion and additional problems with documentation (national personal code and health insurance policy) 

Dimension 2: Access policies

  • Newcomer patients facing problems with access can turn to few policies for help
  • They can get basic information on their entitlements in LV, RU and EN from NGO websites and brochures 
  • Nothing more on health education, promotion or intercultural mediators

Dimension 3: Responsive services

  • Services non-responsive to migrants' specific needs, weakest of several Central and Southern European countries 
  • Neither pre- nor in-service trainings are available on the specific needs of migrant patients, although a few medical service providers may have participated in diversity-sensitivity trainings
  • Providers informally expect their staff to provide unofficial interpretation in RU and EN

Dimension 4: Mechanisms for change

  • Migrant patients are not a priority in health policy and health is not a priority in integration policy
  • While routine data can be gathered based on ethnicity, statistics and research are lacking
  • Migrant health stakeholders are not consulted and policymakers assume that the health system serves all patients equally, with no plans to act on migrant health

Political Participation

Key Findings

One of the most exclusive democracies in the developed world, LV denies the right to vote in local elections and the chance to be consulted through a national integration forum, unlike neighbouring EE and LT and several others in Central Europe

Potential Beneficiaries

Who are disenfranchised from voting?

LV has the largest share of its total adult population disenfranchised in both local and national elections (17% or 275,000 based on estimates of aged 15+). In comparison, the number of disenfranchised is between 5-6% of the total population in CY, GR, IT and DE. Both EE and LT have gone further to open up the local franchise than LV. 

Policy Indicators

Do immigrants have comparable rights and opportunities to participate in political life?

By denying voting rights and even consultative bodies, LV's large share of non-EU citizens within the population are excluded from participating in democratic life. LV's many restricted opportunities for political participation may discourage rather than encourage mutual trust and interaction. These policies are generally weak in the Baltics and Central European countries, but starting to improve since the MIPEX project began. 

Dimension 1: Electoral rights

  • Long-term residents can vote locally in EE (also HU, SK) as well as be elected in LT (also SK); However, neither is possible in LV
  • The local right to vote in local elections is provided in 21 MIPEX countries as well as the right to stand as local candidates in 14

Dimension 2: Political liberties

  • Non-EU citizens face restrictions on political associations and parties in LV (as in EE, LT, PL)
  • In contrast, they face fewer restrictions on their basic political liberties in 31 out of 38 countries

Dimension 3: Consultative bodies

  • LV has been one of 9 countries without any local or national consultative forum including newcomers (see recent initiatives in EE, LT, CZ, SI)
  • Any future forum will have to define whether the forum has institutional powers and how immigrant leaders or associations will be elected, representative and leading in the forum (see examples in DK, FI, DE, PT, ES) 

Dimension 4: Implementation policies

  • Associations get some national support to represent immigrants (largely EU funds), though civic and political participation is not a funding priority (see PT's GATAI approach)
  • Information and outreach is rarely used to get non-EU citizens to participate in democratic life in LV, a weakness in most countries (see instead NW Europe, CA, NR, NZ, PT)

Real beneficiaries

How many non-EU immigrants are eligible to vote?

Looking at both enfranchised and naturalised non-EU citizens in 2011/2, LV qualifies as one of the most exclusive democracies in the developed world, with very low shares of naturalisation (only 1/4 of non-EU-born were LV citizens) and no voting rights for non-EU citizens. In contrast, EE emerges as a country of 'second-class citizenship' with an inclusive local democracy (with 91% of non-EU citizen adults eligible to vote) and somewhat low naturalisation levels (37%). In contrast, LT is politically inclusive of its small long-settled communities.

Outcome indicators

Are immigrants participating in political life?

Neither the LV-born nor the long-settled non-EU-born are very politically active. Data collected over the 2000's show that 21% of LV-born adults reported recently taking part in a political party, association, petition, demonstration or contacting a politician, compared to 18% for long-settled non-EU-born adults. However larger gaps seem to emerge between the university-educated LV-born (31%) and those long-settled non-EU-born with a university degree (20%). While the link between political participation policies and rates is usually not direct, it seems clear that non-EU citizens are discouraged from greater political participation, with a key role to be played by LV's naturalisation and political participation policies.

Permanent Residence

Key Findings

Nearly all of the non-EU-born are long-settled as national permanent residents with near-equal rights as 'second-class citizens'

Potential Beneficiaries

Who can become long-term residents?

Nearly all non-EU men and women have lived in LV the 5+ years required to become long-term residents, according to 2011/2 estimates. As in the other Baltics and Central European countries, most non-EU citizens are long-settled in the country. 

Policy Indicators

How easily can immigrants become long-term residents?

Non-EU citizens enjoy only halfway favourable chances to become permanent residents in LV with near-equal rights to participate in society. Although an EU area of strength, especially in Central Europe and Baltics, permanent residence is relatively insecure in LV, alongside only IE and the UK, both outside EU law. Unlike non-EU citizens in EE or LT, those in LV face great demands but little support to become permanent residents with a relatively insecure status.

Dimension 1: Eligibility

  • LV's eligibility rules are just slightly more flexible on tolerated periods of absence than on average in Europe

Dimension 2: Conditions

  • Non-EU citizens wanting to become permanent residents must pay higher fees than in EE and LT and pass demanding income and language requirements 
  • The language level is set so explicitly high (B1, only 6 others out of 38, including EE, see instead A2 in LT) that it may be unrealistic for many willing newcomers, especially since the state does not guarantee enough free LV courses to pass (instead of project-based approach, see systems in EE, DE, Nordics)

Dimension 3: Security of status

  • Without effective judicial control (unlike most countries), a permanent resident born in the country or living there for decades could be deported to countries they barely know
  • Nor can they leave the country for long periods at a time

Dimension 4: Rights Associated

  • Long-term residents can work, study and live in the country with nearly the same social and economic rights as citizens in LV, as in 29 other countries

Real beneficiaries

How many immigrants are long-term residents?

In 2013, LV was home to 327,408 permanent residents, accounting for 16% of the country's total population, the largest in Europe. 86% were recognised non-citizens and 12% were RU citizens. BY and UA citizens numbered just 1,400-2,000 and other nationalities number below 200 among the permanent residence figures. The total number of permanent residents slightly decreased since 2011 (355,006), largely due to decreases in the number of recognised non-citizens. According to the LV data provided to Eurostat, nearly all were national permanent residents under LV legislation, with only 300-400 EU long-term residents from 2011-2013. The situation was the opposite in EE and LT. 

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether immigrants become long-term residents?

  • Nearly all non-EU-citizens are long-settled with <5 years' residence
  • Hardly any residents with <1-year-permits potentially ineligible for long-term residence
  • Only option to secure residence for long-settled residents and 2nd generation in countries with restrictive naturalisation policies (e.g. LV and other Baltics, Central Europe, AT, IT, ES, CH)

Outcome indicators

How often do immigrants become long-term residents?

Nearly all non-EU citizens in LV are permanent residents. These numbers are comparable to the other Baltic and Central European countries. These permanent residents generally reflect the countries of origin composing LV's non-EU-born population. The number of permanent residents strongly reflects a country's path to permanent residence and citizenship. Countries like LV that facilitated long-term residence but restricted naturalisation (as the 'second-class citizenship' alternative) end up with very high numbers of permanent resident foreigners (e.g. Baltics, Central Europe, IT, ES) and few that naturalise as full citizens.

Access to Nationality

Key Findings

Citizenship policy responsible for one of lowest naturalisation rates in Europe, with major risk of long-term democratic exclusion for various groups

Potential Beneficiaries

Who can become a citizen?

LV and EE have the highest shares of non-EU citizens eligible to naturalise, as nearly all are long-settled and meet the residence requirement. These countries also have the largest shares of second generation without the national citizenship (around 40% of non-EU citizen adults).

Policy Indicators

How easily can immigrants become citizens?

Access to nationality in LV is still the most restrictive of all MIPEX countries, alongside EE. The limited access, restrictive conditions, absence of dual nationality and persisting insecurity for naturalised citizens seem to discourage many potential citizens from taking the steps to become equal LV citizens. The 2013 Citizenship Act Amendment was a major step forward for stateless/non-citizen children, but also a missed opportunity for future immigrant integration.

Dimension 1: Eligibility

  • Eligibility for nationality is still the most restrictive of all MIPEX countries, alongside BG
  • Foreign-born newcomers still face the longest de facto period to apply (5+5 years)
  • Since the 2013 Amendments, stateless/non-citizen children born after independence can be registered by their parents as Latvian citizens
  • This right to citizenship was not simply extended to the children of foreign parents
  • A growing majority of MIPEX countries provide this entitlement to foreign children at/after birth or during their education in the country's schools (e.g. see FI, SE, now CZ and DK)

Dimension 2: Conditions

  • The requirements in themselves are only slightly more restrictive than on average in MIPEX or Central Europe
  • There is a basic fee, an income check and a strict 'good character' requirement
  • Not all applicants are guaranteed enough free courses to pass the free citizenship test and the high-level Latvian test, although exemptions exist for vulnerable groups (including for disabled persons since 2013)

Dimension 3: Security of status

  • Applicants who meet the requirements face one of the most discretionary procedures, where they can still be rejected on vague grounds, without the right to a reasoned decision or an appeal, unlike in most MIPEX countries, recently BE, LU, GR, PL)
  • New Latvian citizens can have their status withdrawn on wider grounds since 2013, even leading to statelessness
  • This contrasts with nearby countries, such as CZ and PL, where all citizens are equally secure in their citizenship

Dimension 4: Dual nationality

  • The renunciation requirement remains a major obstacle to naturalisation in LV, one of the few countries still resisting dual nationality (25 MIPEX countries, recently CZ, DK, PL)
  • Since 2013, dual nationality is allowed as an exception for naturalising foreigners and Latvians abroad, but only for certain nationalities (see box)
  • Dual nationality for other foreign nationals is still seen in LV as a disincentive for integration with many risks and few benefits, contrary to the experience of other countries adopting dual nationality 

Policy Box

The 2013 Citizenship Law Amendment grants LV citizenship to non-citizen/stateless children born in LV after August 21, 1991, so long as their parents agree and promise to help the child learn the LV language and honour and respect the Republic of LV. Article 9 introduced the possibility of dual nationality for the following countries: EU/EFTA/NATO Member States, AU, BR, NZ and countries signing dual citizenship agreements. A proposal was not accepted to extend this to Council of Europe Member States. Article 21 eases the naturalisation tests for people with several types of disabilities. Article 24 expands the possible causes of citizenship loss.

Real beneficiaries

How many immigrants are becoming citizens?

In 2012, LV naturalised 3,751 non-EU citizens, mostly stateless/non-citizens. The total number of naturalisations has fallen dramatically from 17,000-20,000 in 2004-06 to 3,000-4,000 from 2008-2012.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain why non-EU immigrants become citizens?

  • Most long-settled and growing 2nd generation 
  • Most from developed countries and thus less likely to naturalise
  • Nearly all from countries allowing dual nationality

Outcome indicators

How often do immigrants become citizens?

By 2011/2, only an estimated one in four non-EU-born adults had naturalised in LV, which is one of the lowest shares in Europe and much lower than in EE (37%) or LT (90%). LV's citizenship policies are the strongest factor determining these poor naturalisation outcomes. Non-EU immigrant men and women are less likely to become citizens in countries with restrictive policies, such as LV, EE, AT and CH. In 2012, only 1.2 non-EU citizens were naturalised for every 100 in the population. Rates were lower in only EE (0.7), LT (1.0), AT (1.1) and SK (1.1). The very low naturalisation rates in the Baltics improved little between 2008-2012. Compared to other countries, rates in LV are on average much lower for elderly non-EU citizens over 65 and much higher for minors.

Anti-discrimination

Key Findings

For LV's residents experiencing racial/ethnic, religious or nationality discrimination, the legal protections and support are weaker than in most other countries, with few informed of their rights or taking even the 1st steps towards justice

Potential Beneficiaries

Who said they experienced racial/ethnic or religious discrimination last year?

Racial, ethnic and religious discrimination is reportedly as common in LV as in EE and the average European country. 2012 data suggested that 4.2% of people in LV felt that last year they had been discriminated against or harassed based on their ethnic origin (4%) and/or religion/beliefs (0.3%), compared to 4.2% on average in the EU.

Policy Indicators

Is everyone effectively protected from racial/ethnic, religious, and nationality discrimination in all areas of life?

Ranking 33rd with similar scores to EE and below LT, LV's laws and policies are slightly unfavourable for potential victims to access justice. Several other Central European countries lead the way (e.g. BG, HU, RO). Not only is LV law incoherent by not explicitly prohibiting religious or nationality discrimination in all areas of life (unlike racial/ethnic discrimination) but it is also discouraging for victims, who have the weakest mechanisms to enforce their rights in Europe. In contrast, leading countries are increasingly adopting comprehensive acts and equality bodies to guarantee equal protection on all grounds and in all areas (earliest examples in CA, NZ, US, recently FI, NO, SE, UK).

Dimension 1: Definitions

  • LV's basic definitions of discrimination are rather weak on 'other circumstances'
  • Discrimination is not explicitly prohibited on the grounds of nationality/citizenship (see 22 other countries), associated/assumed characteristics (also 22 countries) or multiple grounds (see 8 countries)

Dimension 2: Fields of application

  • Like the other Baltic states, LV has only done the minimum that the EU requires to fight discrimination
  • In contrast, 16 countries have explicitly prohibited racial, ethnic, religious and nationality discrimination in all areas of life 

Dimension 3: Enforcement mechanisms

  • Most countries, including in Central Europe, have slightly favourable mechanisms providing free legal aid and wider ranges of sanctions
  • In contrast, countries are increasingly creating a stronger legal standing for equality NGOs (16), class actions or actio popularis (21) and provisions on the use of situation testing and statistics as evidence in court (13)

Dimension 4: Equality policies

  • Apart from some EU funds and the Ombudsman’s slightly favourable mandate, the State has still made no legal commitments to equality in its work (just as weak as EE)
  • The Ombudsman lacks quasi-judicial powers to find alternative solutions to discrimination cases as well as the powers to instigate its own investigations and proceedings (see instead LT, HU, SK, BG, RO) 
  • Its budget and staff was also cut dramatically since 2008
  • The State has not committed to key equality policies, like awareness-raising campaigns about discrimination and victims’ rights (see instead Nordics, SI, PT, ES)

Real beneficiaries

How many racial/ethnic and religious discrimination complaints were made to equality bodies?

Hardly any official complaints are received and verified every year. For example, a verification was carried out on 3 cases of racial/ethnic discrimination in 2013. No official statistics are collected on discrimination cases.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether potential victims report discrimination cases

  • Only 1/4 of general public in EE know their rights as discrimination victims, the 2nd least informed in Europe
  • Low levels of trust in police and justice system in Baltics and Central Europe
  • Most are not naturalised in Baltics and thus less likely to report complaints of discrimination

Outcome indicators

How many complaints were made last year for every person who said they experienced racial/ethnic and religious discrimination?

Almost no complaints are made compared to the number of people reportedly experiencing incidents of racial/ethnic or religious discrimination in LV. What is clear is that most countries have not even taken the first steps to properly enforce and resource their anti-discrimination laws in order to guarantee the same access to justice for potential discrimination victims as they do for victims of other crimes and illegal acts.

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