Russian Human Rights Council Urges UN, EU to Prevent Expulsion of Russians From Latvia
Last year, the Latvian Saeima (Parliament), citing the need to strengthen national security after the start of the conflict in Ukraine, adopted amendments to the Immigration Law. The amendments provide that existing permanent residence permits issued to Russians and Belarusians will become invalid on September 2, 2023.
Approximately 6,000 Russian citizens in Latvia are expected to receive official notices in September ordering them to leave the country within three months, according to Ingmars Lidaka, head of Latvia's Parliamentary Commission on Citizenship, Migration and Public Mobilization.
"Roughly 5,000 to 6,000, according to my estimates. These are people who have shown no desire – neither to take the exam nor obtain a temporary residence permit. These are the silent ones," said Līdaka.
According to the current law, all permanent residence permits issued to Russian citizens will expire on September 2. In order to continue living legally in Latvia, Russian citizens must apply for permanent residence status.
To qualify, they must submit to the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (PMLP) a certificate of knowledge of the national language at the A2 [basic] level. Those who haven't applied or passed the test must leave the territory of Latvia by December 2.
In mid-August, the Russian Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights issued an appeal to the human rights
commissioners of the United Nations, the European Union, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) regarding the threat of forced evictions of Russian-speaking residents in Latvia.
"We believe that such actions of the Latvian authorities grossly contradict the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of the United Nations, the European Convention on Human Rights. We urge you to intervene in the situation and prevent the forced expulsion of Latvian residents from the country who have Russian citizenship and residence permits issued by the official authorities of the Republic," read the statement.
The Council pointed to the "gross violations of the rights" of Russian-speaking residents who have Russian citizenship and live in Latvia on the basis of a residence permit issued by the country's authorities, urging the international community to interfere and "not to allow the forced evictions."
According to the Council's statement, most of those who will be asked to leave Latvia "under the pretext that they have not passed the mandatory Latvian language exam" are people of advanced retirement age who have lived in Latvia since the times of the USSR
. Given the fact that these people have lived in Latvia for many years, it was emphasized that their knowledge of Russian and Latvian was sufficient for their everyday life.
"Particularly cynical in relation to these people is the requirement by the authorities not only to pass the exam, but also to fill out questionnaires indicating their attitude to the policy of the Russian Federation in the international arena," the Russian Human Rights Council said.
It was also noted that Russians living in Latvia were required not only to take language tests to stay in the country, but also to report on their political views
and "officially condemn" Russia's actions on the world stage.
The Latvian authorities' decision sparked mixed reactions in the country, which hosts thousands of Russian citizens who have lived there since the 1990 independence from the USSR without obtaining the Latvian citizenship.
Currently, there are about 25,000 Russian citizens living in Latvia. According to the PMLP, more than half of them have already submitted documents to obtain residence permits, and the number is increasing daily. Another 4,500 people have not passed the language test and applied for a repeat test scheduled for late fall.