Refugees in Latvia Face Crossroads

Bridge oVer Bullupe River in Bolderajas, Located North of Riga

As they wait for the federal government to grant them refugee or alternative-resident status, refugees in Latvia find themselves in a peculiar situation. While Latvian asylum shelters play a pivotal role in assisting refugees from across the Middle East and North Africa, as well as helping Latvia meet the European Union-mandated 800 mandates, they are not without their problems.

Shelters like the Mucenieki Detention Center — which is nearing at its capacity of 70 individuals — are not equipped to house incoming refugees, forcing them to find new places to live.

Latvian society, however, is wary of helping the newcomers:

Everyone is scared of the refugees, especially in Mucenieki. They fear that one night all the refugees will be released and they will cause chaos.
— Female, 33, Marketing Specialist, Riga

Despite the anxious climate towards immigration, external measures are in place to mitigate the flow of refugees. Latvia is expected to provide 3.5 million euros [3.92 million USD] to the Facility for Refugees in Turkey, a 3 billion euro [3.3 billion USD] support mechanism agreed by the European Union (EU) in exchange for Ankara’s efforts to curb the flow of migrants into Europe.

Domestically, the Ministry of Interior has proposed the expansion and renovation of the Mucenieki Detention Center that would add a library and other resources to assist incoming refugees. Additionally, Drosa Maja (Safe House), a Latvian NGO that normally protects victims of human trafficking and asylum seekers, is working to ensure the safety and security of refugees.

Drosa Maja has made tremendous effort in finding resources for the refugees despite their budget decrease in the past year
— Female, 33, Marketing specialist, Riga

Drosa Maja has set an example for other Latvian NGOs by supporting refugees by providing counseling on finding employment and housing. The hope exists Drosa Maja’s primary goal of preventing refugee homelessness when Mucenieki reaches capacity will extend to other Latvian NGOs.