The number of migrants living in Lithuania has also fallen, from approximately 214,000 in 2000 to 125,000 in 2017. And yet the country remains among the worst performers with respect to its integration policies, according to the Migrant Integration Policy Index.
Only some 400 people apply for asylum in the country annually, which is among the lowest rates in the EU. People from Russia and Belarus generally constitute the top two nationalities of asylum applicants. The highest acceptance rate in 2017-2018 was a 100% to asylum seekers from Syria, largely due to the relocation program which is being ended. In 2017-2018 new groups of asylum seekers granted refugee status emerged with 28 people from Tajikistan and 13 people Turkey being granted refugee status.
There are two main registration centres in Lithuania: the Foreigners’ Registration Centre in Pabradė, which functions as accommodation while waiting for an answer to the asylum request and as a detentions centre and the Refugees Reception Centre, which functions to accommodate those who are already granted protection. When asylum seekers are granted protection, they move to the Refugees Reception Centre (unaccompanied minors are also accommodated there).
The Foreigners’ Registration Centre is housed in a former Soviet military camp, located in a small community, Pabradė, approximately 50 kilometres outside of Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius. The centre has two separate buildings for accommodation, one open section that houses asylum seekers, and one closed section, where irregular migrants (and in exceptional cases, asylum seekers) are detained. Both buildings are surrounded by tall fences (and the detainment building by vast amounts of barbed wire) and guarded by armed guards.
When asylum seekers are granted protection, they are moved to the Refugees Reception Centre (RCC) in Rukla. Unaccompanied minors and persons arriving under the relocation scheme are also accommodated at the RRC before their applications are processed. The normal length of stay and duration of the integration programme is three months, but it can be extended under certain circumstances, most notably in cases of vulnerability or if there are particular challenges to integration. The length of stay has been reduced in recent years from eight months. The RRC is located in Rukla, a small town 35 kilometres from Kaunas with a population of approximately 2,000 people. Its main distinguishing feature is that it hosts a large and active NATO military base. (From https://www.fafo.no/images/pub/2017/20631.pdf)
To sum up, the number of asylum seekers to Lithuania is limited and the asylum system seems not to be under any significant pressure. Yet, as will be presented below, the system is still suffering from limited resources and is not likely to handle an increase in asylum seekers well the way it is organized today.