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  • Brune Bušića 42, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia
  • areyousyrious@gmail.com
  • Brune Bušića 42, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia
  • areyousyrious@gmail.com

AYS SPECIAL: Refugees do not find home in Lithuania

Lithuania is one of the countries which agreed to accept 10105 persons from Syria, Iraq, and Eritrea. Until the end of may, only about 300 people were relocated to this country, but many of them left soon after they arrived seeing no future in his country. One of them writes for AYS about his experience in Lithuania

Rukla Refugee Center is next door to NATO military base. Photo by UNHCR.

The first family relocated from Greece to Italy arrived in Lithuania in December 2015, only to leave the country couple of months later. According to the media reports, almost 80 percent of people who are relocated to this country leave as soon as they can, risking the possibility of losing their status and not to be able to move around Schengen zone. Last year in November, the media reported about 35 asylum-seekers who secretly rented a bus and left the refugee reception center, driving towards Western Europe.

Many people who leave Lithuania are heading toward Sweden and Germany. However, this March, German government notified Lithuania of its plans to send back people to Lithuania. Those who leave Lithuanian are in risk that their refugee benefits will be suspended after a month of absence.
Since March this year, a number of people who are being relocated increased and only over the last two week more than 30 people arrived.

In March this year, Eurostat published a research saying that Lithuania is among the least popular EU countries for people who are looking for asylum in Europe. According to this research, the biggest share of those applying for asylum in Lithuania come from Syria, Russia, and Iraq. There are many reasons for this, but one is that Lithuania is a country in crisis. It has nearly 3 million people, and the average salary is among the lowest in the EU.

The country is one of the least multicultural in Europe, and many people are not open to idea of having refugees around them. According to a survey conducted this year, 46 percent of Lithuanians “completely disagree” about letting asylum seekers into their country. They also said that refugees are threat to Lithuanian economy, security and national culture.

Many people who were relocated are accommodated in Rukla Refugee Reception Centre. Our friend from Syria was in this center. This is his story.

The refugee’s reception center in Lithuania

“When we mention the word “refugee,” the first thing may dawn on our minds can be war, as a direct cause associated with the humanitarian crisis. Hence, such a naming: “refugees reception center” should be at least a new start toward making its residents start to forget the pain of the past. However, the one in Lithuania, which is situated in almost the smallest and most remote village from other life causes there; Rukla, is just some meters from a NATO base in the area!

All the refugees there complained of hearing the sounds of cannons, aircraft, choppers, and reported that their children cried when they saw the troops march nearby in the known military costume, they talked about how many times they woke up at night by the sounds or by nightmares for being close to an environment they have just escaped and expected no return to, then they found themselves facing it again, just like they were trapped, but, there have been no ears for them so far.

Being exiled from the other parts of the country, refugees feel they were put there on purpose as if it was a public demand to keep them that far away in the middle of nothing, but another military atmosphere to increase their pain in leaving them planted in their non-stop aching memory.

Add to that, the prejudice and sectarianism refugees get met with by locals there, and not only in that tiny naïve village, but almost in all over Lithuania, while the biggest majority of Lithuanians state openly they don’t want refugees and Muslims in their country, and even protested in the streets of the capital Vilnius many times for that.

Other cases in that context to mention, are the physical assaults took place there around the refugee’s reception center, where locals attacked men and women from Syria and even took off their headscarves forcibly, with the police there doing nothing toward that.

In a very strange coincidence ever, the mayor of Rukla in that time even gave a statement where he blamed the refugees for such an accident, which he considered them as not respecting the locals with the women’s headscarves worn, the thing he saw as “provoking” to locals.

What do refugees get in Lithuania?

The best surprise for refugees in Lithuania is that there is no place for them to stay at! Actually, there is, but the refugee reception center, which is the only place for them, host them only for three months. And during those three months, the refugee gets 61 EUR per month, to cover all his/her expenses, including food, as the camp doesn’t provide meals.

After those three months are over, there are no apartments for them the state there rents out like what refugees in other EU states get, and they will be responsible for paying for their house rental, food, transportation, and even medication, from the 204 EUR a refugee gets a month there, and that is for six months only, and after the first six months, the sum gets cut down to half, so it becomes 102 EUR for another six months, and then the financial support is all cut, nevertheless that refugee could work or not.

Yes, it is a disaster, a real one is that last bit of detail, where refugees were told in Greece –where Lithuania mostly relocate them from, that they will be all covered, with regard to any medical issues, and that is officially registered in the paper as supposed, while on the ground, a refugee won’t get any medication, and at any little health issue they would go through, they would be asked to pay for medical expenses from their “own money”, if they ever have any.

Finding a job, is another major disaster refugees face there. The fact is, Lithuania, which its population barely exceeds three million, already lacks job opportunity for who stayed inside from Lithuanians, while more than half of the population are already economical immigrants in other parts of the world.

Not only there are no job opportunities for refugees there, furthermore, even when the job center would try to find any jobs for the refugees there, they come with unqualified jobs… totally far away from the majors and the fields, the refugees studied, and as a quick instance in that context, the job center there once offered a refugee who holds a master in the economy a job in generic construction work, which never needs any studies even.

With all that being said, and with all the frustration refugees feel there that there is no life for them after they were already “dead” in the war, for sure there is no wonder they cannot stand staying there for long, and not so far after losing all hope they may survive there, they just leave the country toward other destinations in Europe to try to seek asylum again, where another tragedy starts, as they get faced with the Dublin III regulation, which deprives them the right to be given asylum in another EU state, or even to work.

The refugees in Lithuania…. A story of pain!”

(Name of the author of this story is known to AYS. The authors insisted his name not to be published being afraid of the repercussions he may face with while trying to resolve his status in EU.)

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