Despite this recent progress, Latvia scores 37/100, which means that Latvia integration policies create more obstacles than opportunities for integration. Latvia’s score is lower than the average score of MIPEX country (50).
Latvia employs an approach to integration that promotes equality on paper, as it focuses mainly on access to rights and long-term settlement. As in most Central and Eastern European countries, immigrants in Latvia enjoy basic rights and protection, but not equal opportunities. Despite the fact that Latvia has invested in access to rights and opportunities over the last five years, Latvia is weaker than the average in MIPEX on all the three dimensions. Policies in Latvia are far to offer equal opportunities to migrants.
Without greater support on all three dimensions (rights, opportunities and long-term security), immigrants will remain invisible in public life and the Latvian public will also continue to see immigrants more as threats than as opportunities. Almost half of the population in Latvia thinks that immigration and immigrants are a problem for the society. The weak education policies may also explain the low number of migrants with tertiary education, one of the lowest in the EU. Internationally, the ‘Top Ten’ MIPEX countries treat immigrants as equals, neighbours and potential citizens, and invest in integration as a two-way process for society. Under these inclusive policies, both immigrants and the public are more likely to interact together and think of each other as equals.
Latvia’s integration policies are below the average for Europe, and they are less advanced than in other countries in Central and Eastern Europe (e.g., Czechia and Estonia) and in countries employing a similar approach to integration (e.g., Slovenia and Hungary). Latvia’s policies are ranked lower than the other new EU member states (EU13) and similar to policies in Croatia, Lithuania and Slovakia. In contrast, policies are more advanced in Estonia and Poland.
- Labour market mobility: Slightly unfavourable: Migrant workers can improve their skills and job prospects with equal access to education, training and study grants, but they have only partial equal access to employment.
- Family reunification: Halfway favourable: Latvia's family reunion policies are more discretionary than in most countries, with relatively few non-EU families able to reunite in the country.
- Education: Slightly unfavourable: Latvian 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.
- Health: Slightly unfavourable: Basic healthcare entitlements are missing for temporary residents and undocumented migrants, while permanent residents and, since 2018, asylum seekers get access to them. Migrant patients benefit from a limited support, although interpretation services are now available free of charge.
- Political participation: Unfavourable: A major area of weakness across Central Europe, immigrant groups in Latvia has no right to vote (including in local elections) and no chance to be consulted through a national integration forum.
- Permanent residence: Halfway favourable: Non-EU residents can settle long-term, but would benefit from more flexible requirements and more secure status
- Access to nationality: Slightly unfavourable: The restrictive requirements bar many immigrants from acquiring the nationality. However, the new law in 2019 improved the situation for Latvian-born children by establishing that non-citizens Latvian-born residents are automatically entitled to Latvian citizenship.
- Anti-discrimination: Slightly favourable: Potential victims of discrimination benefit from the enforcement mechanisms and the mandate of the Latvian equality body that are quite well developed. However, citizenship as a ground of discrimination is not explicitly mentioned.