Despite this recent progress, Lithuania still scores only 37/100, which means that Lithuania’s integration policies create more obstacles than opportunities for integration. Lithuania’s score is lower than the average MIPEX country score of 50/100.
Lithuania’s approach to integration is classified by MIPEX as “Equality on Paper”. While immigrants enjoy basic rights and protection in Lithuania, they do not enjoy equal opportunities to participate in society. Lithuania’s approach is similar to most Central and Eastern European countries. Despite the fact that Lithuania has improved the opportunities and security for immigrants over the last five years, Lithuania’s integration policies are weaker on all three dimensions than the average MIPEX country.
A country’s approach to integration matters because policies influence whether or not integration works as a two-way process. The way that governments treat immigrants strongly influences how well immigrants and the public interact and think of each other. Lithuania’s current policies encourage the public to see immigrants as strangers instead of as their equals. Internationally, the ‘Top Ten’ MIPEX countries treat immigrants as equals, neighbours and potential citizens.
Many obstacles emerge for immigrants in Lithuania in several areas, especially in areas like health, political participation and access to nationality. Without greater support, immigrants will remain invisible in public life and the Lithuanian public will also continue to see immigrants more as threats than as opportunities. Restrictive policies like Lithuania’s can create a ‘vicious circle’ of exclusion that reinforces fear and separation. Policies that treat immigrants as threats lead more people to see immigrants as general threats and treat them in ways that harm integration. Under restrictive policies, the public experiences higher levels of xenophobia and islamophobia and lower levels of social trust, which leads them to fewer contacts and positive experiences with immigrants.
Lithuania’s integration policies are below average in Europe and even slightly below average compared to other Central and Eastern European countries. For example, its policies are less advanced than Central and Eastern European countries with a more comprehensive approach (Czechia and Estonia). Lithuania’s policies seem most similar to policies in Croatia, Latvia and Slovakia.
- Labour market mobility: Halfway favourable: Newcomers looking to improve their skills and job prospects face several obstacles to access employment, education, training and study grants.
- Family reunification: Halfway favourable: Under Lithuania combines inclusive definitions and conditions for family reunification with highly discretionary procedures, a typical problem across Central Europe.
- Education: Halfway favourable: While foreign pupils are starting to benefit from targeted support, they still face difficulties in accessing different levels and tracks in the education system.
- Health: Slightly unfavourable: While recent projects have helped more migrants get involved in providing information and services, entitlements and information for migrant patients are still more limited in Lithuania than in most countries
- Political participation: Unfavourable: A major area of weakness across Central Europe, political participation is limited in Lithuania to local voting rights for permanent residents, as more structural policies are required to inform, consult and support immigrants in civil society.
- Permanent residence: Halfway favourable: One of Lithuania’s few areas of strength due to EU law, non-EU citizens in Lithuania may still be uncertain about their chances to pass the language/integration requirement and the discretionary procedure, more so than in most countries.
- Access to nationality: Slightly unfavourable: Ordinary immigrants must wait a long time (10 years) and prepare on their own to become citizens in Lithuania, given the restrictive naturalisation requirements. Lithuania has yet to follow the international reform trends to facilitate the residence requirement (5-7 years), full dual nationality and citizenship entitlements for all Lithuanian-born or educated children.
- Anti-discrimination: Halfway favourable: Despite a strong equality body, discrimination awareness and reporting are depressed by Lithuania’s relatively weak and uneven laws and enforcement mechanisms to access justice for victims of racial, ethnic, religious or nationality discrimination.