An anti-immigration protest in Riga, Latvia. Credit: EPA/VALDA KALNINA
An anti-immigration protest in Riga, Latvia. Credit: EPA/VALDA KALNINA

There has been progress on the integration of refugees in Latvia but it is necessary to encourage the reporting of racist hate crimes as well as the integration of vulnerable groups. Recommendations to the Latvian government were included in a report published on Tuesday by the Council of Europe Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI).

The Council of Europe Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) on Tuesday published a report on racism in Latvia in which it underscored that the country had made progress on the integration of refugees and those benefiting from subsidiary protection but said that more measures were necessary. 


The commission urged the country to encourage the reporting of racist and homo-/transphobic hate crimes, promote the integration of vulnerable groups in education, language training, employment and health, and to provide for the automatic recognition of Latvian citizenship for children born to the so-called group of "non-citizens", meaning citizens of Latvia or any other country that - in line with Latvian legislation - have the right to a ''non-citizen'' passport issued by the government as well as other rights. 

Progress in refugee integration 

ECRI noted in a statement that progress has been made in a number of fields. The integration of refugees and those granted subsidiary protection has been facilitated, it said, but measures should be taken in the sectors of linguistic training, labor market integration, and access to healthcare. 

Guidelines for investigations into incitement to hate and hate crimes have been adopted and the ''State Police College has significantly intensified its training activities in the area of hate crimes, including for police officers, the Prosecutor General's office and the Supreme Court'', according to the statement issued. It added that the ''authorities developed an Action Plan for the implementation of the Guidelines on National Identity, Civil Society and Integration Policy (2012-2018). 

They also provided free Latvian language courses to national/ethnic minorities and immigrants, as well as to so-called "non-citizens" who wish to apply for citizenship. The rules for granting Latvian citizenship to newly-born children of "non-citizens" were eased.

ECRI concerns remain 

Despite the progress made, ECRI noted that issues continue to raise concern including the lack ''on the political scene, of promotion of counter-speech in response to racist and homo-/transphobic hate speech, the marginalization of the Roma community and the situation of LGBT persons.'' 

''As a result,'' it added, ''the report makes 21 recommendations to the authorities. Within two years ECRI will evaluate progress made with regard to two of them that it considers to be priority recommendations: establish a unit within the State Police tasked with reaching out to vulnerable groups in order to increase trust in the police and address the problem of under-reporting of racist and homo-/transphobic hate crimes; provide for the automatic recognition of Latvian citizenship for children born to "non-citizens."
 

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