Of all Baltic States Lithuania has the highest number of asylum seekers (in 2009 – 449, in 2010 – 503), but compared with Europe as a whole the number is small. For many migrants and refugees Lithuania is a transit country to the “old” member states of the EU.
Majority of asylum seekers in Lithuania are citizens of Russian Federation and come from Chechnya. Many of them have got temporary resident permits, but in recent years situation have changed. From 2009 authorities examine the applications by taking into consideration individual circumstances of the persons despite the danger of the region they left. Therefore, Lithuania closed the doors for many Chechens and the number of negative decisions increased 8 times in 2009.
Many asylum seekers cross the country illegally. If they do not have visa or valid travel documents, they are accommodated in the Foreigners’ Registration Centre (Pabradė, Švenčionys district) and wait there for decision. Living conditions in this place have received international criticism. The centre looks like a prison and it is not suitable for living a longer time. Despite this, some asylum seekers stay here quite long (year or more), because authorities not always follow the terms of application procedure.
About 300 foreigners per year flee this place after by using the right to leave the centre for 24 hours. Many of them are deported back under Dublin Regulation, but some disappear without any signs.
Until 2009 Lithuania has had a high recognition rate (2006 – 86%, 2007 - 84%, 2008 – 69,9 %) but from 2009 examination procedure became stricter (2009 – 49 %, 2010 – 21,9 %). From 2009 asylum seekers have to prove individual persecution or danger, but not the fact that they came from a dangerous area in general.
If an asylum seeker is recognised, he gets temporary (after one year it can be prolonged) or permanent residence permit. Absolute majority is granting temporary residence permits – in 2008 – 96 %, 2009 – 95 %, 2010 – 99 %. Only few asylum seekers get permanent residence permits (asylum status) and have access to full social assistance.
Recognised asylum seekers (both permanent and temporary residents) usually are entitled to two parts of integration program, with lasts usually 1-1,5 year. First six moths recognised asylum seekers live in refugees camp in Rukla. The camp is in a small and isolated district, where refugees do not have many contacts with locals. Integration possibilities here are limited. Later they are transfered to other districts, usually cities, for 6- 12 months. Authorities are contracted with NGOs, which help to find accommodation and job. Social prejudices hinder to find accommodation without any problems. Also integration program is not sufficient for many refugees and later for lack of Lithuanian language skills it is very difficult to find a job.
Family reunification is possible only for applicants granted permanent resident permits.