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9 Mar, 2024 09:46

EU state begins expelling Russians

People will be deported from Latvia by force if they don’t leave voluntarily, the country’s migration chief has said
EU state begins expelling Russians

Latvia has officially begun expulsions of Russians. Citizens of the neighboring state who either failed to apply for a new residence permit in the EU country or to pass a state language exam are liable for enforced ejection, the head of Latvia's Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (PMLP), Maira Roze, has announced.

Exit orders have so far been issued to six Russian citizens; two have already left the country, Roze said in an interview with the broadcaster LTV on Friday.

A total of 1,017 Russians have reportedly not complied with the Latvian immigration law, she said, and will be handed orders to leave within 30 days, the PMLP chief added.

According to Roze, those who refuse to comply will be deported by force. Information has already been passed on to Latvia’s border guard service, she said.

PMLP data suggests that out of the 1,017 Russian citizens in question, 213 had previously left Latvia through another EU country.

In 2022, the Latvian parliament passed legislation mandating that residence permits issued to the Russians would expire on September 1, 2023 unless they obtained a certificate proving that they were proficient in the local language.

Roze said late last year that a total of 15,500 Russian citizens had applied for new temporary Latvian residence permits before the deadline, while around 3,000 others requested permission for permanent residency. Most of them successfully passed the language exam, but more than a thousand failed it or didn’t show up for the test at all.

The PMLP chief also insisted at the time that the planned deportation of the Russians had nothing to do with the conflict between Moscow and Kiev, in which Latvia fully backs Ukraine. Around 350 citizens of Russia are expelled from the country every year in full compliance with its laws, she said.

In January, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned the authorities in Riga that the planned deportations represent an “openly criminal” treatment of the people, adding that Moscow will “not forget and not forgive” those responsible for this “evil act.”

As for those who are ejected from Latvia, proper living conditions will be provided to them in Russia, she promised.

Latvia, which had a pre-independence population of nearly 2.7 million, is now home to approximately 1.8 million and like its fellow Baltic states, is projected to lose upwards of 20% of its current population by 2050. Despite these woes, the country has exhibited hostility to its ethnic Russian minority, which currently comprises around 25% of the population. Among other things, Russians who were born in Latvia when it was part of the Soviet Union were issued “non-citizen” passports, which prevented them from voting or working in certain jobs.