Psychics believe that fear helps to survive, but at the same time slows down development. We are afraid, so we try to hide and distance ourselves from the potential danger. For example, refugees from African and Middle Eastern countries, which Latvia has committed to accommodate under the EU Solidarity Program. It is fear that does not allow us to take a cold-blooded view of the situation.
Latvia is not a dream country in the eyes of refugees. We will still have to find the 776 people that the state has to accept. The people of the southern countries are not happy about the opportunity to live in a small country with a Baltic feeling.
The State Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior, Ilze Pētersone-Godmane, has told journalists that no one wants to settle in our country for a long time.
“Currently, active work is underway with migrants who have agreed to participate in the EU resettlement program: interviews are taking place, refugees are being introduced to Latvia. No asylum seeker has yet agreed to go to live in Latvia, but perhaps in the near future a family will agree to go to our country, ”said the MoI official.
Shortly after this announcement, two families arrived in Latvia, a total of six people. Indeed, no queue has formed at the border.
“Our allies are poverty and cold,” said former Minister of Culture Inguna Ribena from the rostrum of the Saeima. That was not irony. An experienced politician hypocritically believes that it is better to live in poverty than in the Arab world.
The center for accommodation of migrants is located in Mucenieki village near Riga. The small village has become known throughout Latvia. About 100 people currently live here. Not only refugees, which Latvia has to accept within the framework of the European Solidarity Program, but also illegal migrants who have arrived in Latvia from Russia live here. They are mainly Vietnamese and citizens of the former Soviet republics. None of them want to stay in our country – Latvia is just a transit point. Most want to go to Scandinavian or Western European countries.
Approximately 300 people will be accommodated here, of whom Latvia must admit under the quota.
In the eyes of the villagers, real and potential neighbors are already causing psychological difficulties.
Normunds Vagalis, the head of the Association “Development Center“ Mucenieki ””, says that 600 people live in the village.
“Meeting with Interior Minister Richard Kozlovsky, we asked a specific question:” How many refugees will be accommodated here? ” We were told – 300. Since there are 600 people living in the village, 300 refugees – that is a large enough number for the locals to feel uncomfortable, ”he said.
Vagalis added that the villagers do not object to the refugees, only the number of those who may endanger the security of the village is confused.
“Climate change is already being felt as the number of refugees increases. Young men from Georgia lived here, and although they did not live here for a long time, even the staff of the center itself said that it was a difficult time. They moved openly throughout the area, they had conflicts with the locals. The locals play sports, walk in the woods, ride bicycles, but when such groups are formed, children are afraid to go outside. Residents are starting to feel uncomfortable, ”Vagalis said.
For many years, the mortality rate in Latvia has been higher than the birth rate, and even the emergence of a small but rapidly growing ethnic group is causing real horror – both among the small number of Latvians and Russians who feel like a minority here. Such consensus is rare, as most often the political views of the two communities differ significantly.
The population is frightened by the insistence of the refugees and the demographic potential, experts say.
“They will set us aside and devour us,” the people of Latvia worry.
“The arrival of refugees in Latvia may cause an increase in labor migration of local residents – they will go to other EU countries. Such a scenario is indeed possible. Undoubtedly, refugees will affect the living standards of the Latvian population if the influx of migrants is significantly higher than promised. After the events in Cologne and Paris, everyone has already realized that the lives of the locals change after the arrival of the refugees, ”said Mihails Hazans, a professor and migration specialist at the University of Latvia.
He emphasizes that no change for the better is expected.
“The state will be forced to increase the number of police officers on the streets, people will no longer be able to celebrate any holidays in the city center. We should not forget that Latvia is not such a bad place at all, but now the situation is gradually changing for the worse, ”the expert added.
Experts believe that there may be difficulties in refugees integrating into the divided Latvian society.
“None of the refugees will participate in our Song and Dance Festival, they will not learn the Latvian language, they will not learn the local customs. We will have to live with them. Of course, over time, our daily life will be affected by various factors and the understanding of the surrounding world, ”notes the head of the Latvian Bar Association Aivars Borovkovs.
On the other hand, Inna Šteinbuka, Head of the European Commission Representation, believes that the public discussion of the stormy issue of refugees does not correspond to the scale of the problem. According to her, politicians and opinion leaders are to blame.
“Understanding of society’s tolerance of any minority is not developed,” she said.
Writer and screenwriter Nils Sakss believes that Latvia has long had to take in a large number of refugees. “I have traveled a lot in the Latvian countryside, I know what the situation is there. It seems unfair to me to sit on empty ground myself and not let others in, ”he says in an interview. “If refugees do not want to sit in the countryside, they should not sit, but it is our duty to offer it to them.”
However, the arguments of those who support the reception of refugees are drowning in a sea of protests. Standing on the side of refugees means swimming against the current. Refugees are perceived as a threat, and there is no talk of democracy on this issue.
The struggle for language
Ilona Spure, the head of the Prison Administration, predicted an increase in the number of her “defenders”.
“During the last two years, the number of prisoners in the Latvian prison system has decreased. This is mainly due to the declining number of people in the country. There are currently 4,390 prisoners in Latvian prisons. Although the number of prisoners has stabilized in recent months, it could change due to migrants. This means that the prison system will have to face new challenges, foreign prisoners, “she told reporters.
By the way, prisoners in Latvian prisons mostly speak Russian. Experts see another problem here. In what environment – Latvian or Russian – will the new inhabitants of Latvia integrate. The topic of language in Latvia is still painful.
“Tens of millions of people migrate around the world every year. They include both refugees and economic migrants. These people have more suitable living conditions and easy roads. Research shows that migrants tend to be among the most widely spoken language circles. In Latvia, it is the Russian language, ”notes Leons Taivāns, a professor and orientalist at the University of Latvia.
He emphasizes that the majority of asylum seekers in Latvia will find work in sectors where the Russian language is more widespread.
“It is likely that these people will look for work in manufacturing companies, but in Latvia, the manufacturing, trade and transport sectors are mainly related to Russian-speakers. This is the Russian environment. Latvians are employed in the cultural, educational and agricultural sectors and in the civil service. Migrants are reluctant to work in the agricultural sector for a number of reasons. They live in big cities. Most of the urban population in Latvia is Russian-speaking, so refugees will want to learn Russian. Of course, in some cases they will be taught Latvian, but in the conditions of mass flow other mechanisms will work, ”says Taiwan.
Representatives of the Education Department of the Latvian Language Agency note that migrants who have arrived in Latvia are learning the state language with interest.
Erika Pičukāne, a methodologist at the department, says that Latvian language classes started on February 11. Classes are held twice a week and last for three hours and five minutes. Migrants are very nice people and study with interest. They learn the basics of the language so that, if necessary, they can tell about themselves if they are lost or explain to the doctor what happened. “I would call it a survival course. In teaching them, we take into account what we would need if we came to another country, ”she noted.
Kārlis Seržants, Deputy Chairman of the National Security Commission of the Saeima, noted that the desire of refugees accommodated in Latvia to learn the language and abilities could soon be mentioned as an example to those local residents who still do not speak Latvian.
Fear of lack of knowledge
Whatever it may be, the problem of refugees is not relevant in Latvia at the moment – no influx of refugees is observed, only theoretical discussions are taking place.
This topic is constantly discussed in the media and in everyday life. Latvians are conservative: polls show that most people do not want to see Muslims in their neighborhood. There is no common life experience with the representatives of this religious group in Latvia – the Muslim diaspora is very small. There are also very few people with other skin colors in Latvia. As a result, the prospect of the appearance of “strangers” is frightening.
“I have lived in Brussels for a year and a half. First of all, I notice that the city is home to a wide variety of races and religions. I was worried about this circumstance, but after a while I got used to it. We are simply not used to the fact that there are people of different colors with different faiths among us, ”Miroslavs Mitrofanovs, a publicist and co-chair of the Latvian Russian Union, shared his experience.
For the time being, the Latvian population’s concern about possible floods of migrants seems exaggerated. These fears are exploited by politicians, they are gladly aroused by the media – fears distract the population from other, perhaps even more pressing problems.
However, it is clear that due to migrants, the state will have to make a difficult decision: to develop the economy knowing that it can attract migrants, or to stay in the usual, as former Minister Ribena said, “poverty and cold”, but not to let strangers. The choice is up to the people, but I think the decision has to be made in cold blood. Fears that negatively affect vision and all other senses must be got rid of.