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I want to get asylum in the LR
One of the inherent human rights is the right to seek asylum from persecution and use this asylum. The Republic of Lithuania respects and protects this human right.
In Lithuania, asylum is:
- refugee status;
- subsidiary protection.
The granting of asylum in the Republic of Lithuania means protection against being attacked to the country of origin, issue of a residence permit (permanent or temporary) in Lithuania and provision of social assistance to an foreigner who has been granted asylum. An foreigner who has been granted refugee status is issued a permanent residence permit, an foreigner who has been granted subsidiary protection, a temporary residence permit (which can be changed after 2 years if the grounds for which subsidiary protection has been granted) remain. After the foreigner has been granted asylum, this person is subject to social integration according to the procedure established by the legal acts of the Republic of Lithuania (in case of questions related to the application of social integration, please contact the Ministry of Social Security and Labour).
Refugee is a foreigner (for a national or stateless person) who, due to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.
Subsidiary protection in Lithuania is granted to an alienforeigner who does not qualify for a refugee, but cannot return back due to a fully justified fear that he will be tortured, subject to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or dignity, or will be punished in such a way that there is a threat to him will be executed or sentenced to death, that there is a serious and personal threat to his life, health, safety or freedom due to indiscriminate acts of violence in an international or domestic armed conflict.
An foreigner may submit an application for asylum:
- For the State Border Guard Service – at the border control posts of the Republic of Lithuania or the territory of the Republic of Lithuania where the legal border regime applies;
- Local branch of the Migration Department – where an foreigner in the territory of the Republic of Lithuania;
- Foreigners” Registration Centre (Pabradė, Švenčionys district).
If an foreigner is seeking asylum in the Republic of Lithuania but has arrived in the country or is illegally staying there (without a visa and/or a valid travel document of the Republic of Lithuania), he/she must apply for asylum immediately. Otherwise, in accordance with the procedure established by the laws of the Republic of Lithuania, he may be held liable for unauthorised entry into or stay in the Republic of Lithuania.
An foreigner must apply for asylum in person. The application on behalf of the minor family members may be submitted by any adult family member. An application on behalf of an unaccompanied minor foreigner or a legally incapable foreigner may be taken by his/her representative.
An application for asylum must be motivated, the foreigner must set out all the facts and indicate the reasons why he/she considers it necessary to grant him asylum in the Republic of Lithuania.
When an foreigner submits an application for asylum, the authorised civil servant registers the application (if the application for asylum has not been made in writing – draws up a free-form asylum application containing the information provided by the asylum seeker) and carries out the asylum seeker’s initial interview and other initial steps to set up the personal file of the asylum seeker.
The asylum seeker must provide the civil servant with all available documents (identity documents, travel tickets, other documents related to the grounds of the asylum application, etc.). He must also take fingerprints of an asylum seeker who has reached the age of 14. Also an initial assessment of the vulnerability of the asylum seeker is performed.
The initial interview must be conducted in the asylum seeker’s mother tongue or in the language best understood by the asylum seeker. If necessary or requested by the asylum seeker, an interpreter and an authorised representative (lawyer) must participate in the interview.
The purpose of the primary interview is to collect data on the asylum seeker and the family members of the asylum seeker arriving together, the route of arrival to the Republic of Lithuania, the data related to the identification of the European Union Member State responsible for examining the application for asylum, as well as the reasons for the application for asylum. situation of asylum seeker in third countries.
If the asylum seeker is a minor, the initial action is taken with the participation of at least one of his/her parents (adoptive parents) or another legal representative with whom the minor asylum seeker has arrived in the Republic of Lithuania. If the asylum seeker is an unaccompanied minor, the initial actions must be carried out with the participation of an authorised representative and a representative of the children’s rights protection authority.
The Migration Department shall take a decision on the accommodation of the asylum seeker, except in cases where the asylum seeker has been detained or a measure alternative to detention has been imposed against him according to the procedure established by the laws of the Republic of Lithuania.
Asylum seekers may be accommodated in the Foreigners” Registration Centre; in other accommodation places in accordance with the procedure established by the Government or its authorised institution; following the decision of the Migration Department, an asylum seeker may be permitted to reside in the place of his choice if the asylum seeker so requests.
An unaccompanied minor asylum seeker must be accommodated with adult relatives, a representative or a Refugee Reception Centre, unless his/her representative has objections.
Vulnerable persons and their family members may be accommodated in other accommodation that meets their specific needs and is administered by non-governmental organisations working with asylum seekers. Vulnerable persons must, where possible, be permitted to reside with an adult or a close relative legally resident in the territory of the Republic of Lithuania.
The Migration Department issues the alien’s registration certificate for any age asylum seeker who is entitled to stay in the territory of the Republic of Lithuania. The alien’s registration certificate is issued instead of the personal documents held by the asylum seeker, which are collected and stored in his/her personal file. The alien’s registration certificate confirms that the holder is an asylum seeker who is entitled to stay in the territory of the Republic of Lithuania.
Upon receipt of an alien’s application for asylum and other documents, the Migration Department may decide:
- Not to examine the asylum application. Such a decision is taken after the Migration Department has determined, on the basis of available information, that: an foreigner has been granted asylum by another Member State of the European Union or by a safe third country and may therefore return to that country and continue to use the asylum; he entered the Republic of Lithuania from a safe third country; he has filed a subsequent application for asylum which does not contain any new substantive reasons. The decision not to examine the asylum application is taken within 48 hours, which can be extended by up to 3 business days.
- Not to examine the application for asylum in substance and transfer the asylum seeker to another Member State of the European Union. Such a decision must be taken when, in accordance with the provisions of Regulation (EU) No 604/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 states that another Member State of the European Union is responsible for the examination of the application for asylum lodged.
- Examine the application for asylum in substance as a matter of urgency. Such a decision must be taken when the Migration Department, after assessing the available information, determines that the asylum seeker:
- came from a safe country of origin;
- in the application for asylum, he has provided only information which is not relevant to the examination of whether the foreigner can be granted asylum;
- in order to mislead the investigation, provided misleading information about his/her identity or nationality or false documents, or did not provide or destroyed the information or documents concerning his/her identity or nationality which may materially affect the decision on asylum;
- has submitted an application for asylum based on the data provided by the asylum seeker which are inconsistent, contradictory, misleading and inconsistent with the information on the country of origin of the foreigner and therefore manifestly unconvincing;
- has submitted a subsequent application for asylum where no new essential information or data have emerged or the submission whereof significantly increases the likelihood that the asylum seeker may meet the criteria for asylum;
- has applied for asylum only in order to prevent the adoption or execution of a decision to return or expel a foreigner to a foreign country;
- refused to allow his fingerprints to be taken;
- may, for serious reasons, be considered to be a threat to national security or public order.
The decision on the application for asylum, which is examined in substance as a matter of urgency, is taken within 7 business days, which can be extended to a maximum of 3 business days.
- Examine the application for asylum in substance. Such a decision must be taken when the Migration Department, on the basis of the information available, finds that there is no reason not to examine the application, to transfer the asylum seeker to another Member State of the European Union or to examine the application as a matter of urgency. The decision on the application for asylum, which is examined in substance, is taken within 3 months, which can be extended for a maximum of 3 months.
A thorough, independent and impartial investigation must be carried out before deciding on an application for asylum. Examination of the application for asylum is a complex administrative procedure, which is described in detail in the law. The Migration Department performs an investigation to the asylum application and makes the decision on asylum. The Migration Department checks the information provided by the asylum seeker and collects additional information on the circumstances on which the application is based. When all the necessary information is collected, the Migration Department evaluates whether the asylum seeker can be granted asylum and takes one of the following decisions:
- to grant a refugee status and to issue a residence permit of a long-term resident of the Republic of Lithuania in the European Union (permanent residence permit) valid for 5 years;
- refuse the refugee status, grant subsidiary protection and issue a temporary residence permit in the Republic of Lithuania, valid for 2 years;
- refuse the asylum and to issue a temporary residence permit on other grounds;
- refuse asylum and return an foreigner or expel him/her from Lithuania.
All decisions taken by the Migration Department may be appealed to the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court within 14 days from the date of service of the decision. After examining the complaint, the court may satisfy it and oblige the Migration Department to re-examine the alien’s application. After the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court rejects the complaint, the foreigner has the right to appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania, which may satisfy the complaint and return the case to the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court or Migration Department for re-examination or rejection of the complaint. If the complaint is rejected, the decision of the Migration Department becomes effective.
During the appeal procedure, legal services may be provided to the foreigner free of charge.
In the course of examination of an application for asylum, the asylum seeker shall have the following rights:
- To use the material conditions of accommodation while residing in accommodation facilities, detention facilities and border control posts and transit zones designated by the authorities of the Republic of Lithuania.
- To have free access to information about one’s rights and obligations and the consequences of non-execution thereof during the examination of application for asylum, as well as information related to the examination of the application for asylum.
- To manage and formalise documents related to the examination of the application for asylum.
- To use state-guaranteed legal aid in the manner prescribed by the Minister of the Interior;
- To receive compensation for the use of means of public transport where such use of the means of public transport is linked to the examination of the asylum application.
- To use free interpreter services.
- To get free medical assistance, psychological assistance and social services at the Foreigners” Registration Centre or Refugee Reception Centre.
- In accordance with the procedure established by the Minister of Social Security and Labour and the Minister of the Interior, to get a monthly cash benefit in the amount of 10 percent of the state-supported income.
- To contact representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other organisations providing specialised legal assistance or advice to asylum seekers and meet with them in privacy (including border control posts or transit zones).
- If assigned to vulnerable persons, to use the accommodation conditions corresponding to their special needs.
- Use the other terms of acceptance and the rights guaranteed to them by international agreements, laws and other legal acts of the Republic of Lithuania.
Obligations of the asylum seeker:
- To comply with the requirements of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, laws and other legal acts.
- To perform the duties prescribed for the asylum seeker by the decisions of the Migration Department and the court.
- Allow the doctor to check the medical condition.
- During the examination of the application for asylum, to provide all available documents and detailed explanations corresponding to the real facts regarding the grounds for the application for asylum, the circumstances of one’s personality and arrival and stay in the Republic of Lithuania and to cooperate with the civil servants and employees of the competent authorities.
- During the interview of the state institution or institution to which the alien’s application for asylum is submitted, to declare the funds available and the assets held in the Republic of Lithuania and to declare to the Migration Department in a free form in writing about the received funds during the period of the right to stay in the territory of the Republic of Lithuania within 3 business days of their receipt.
Immediately notify the Migration Department in writing about the change of residence if the decision of the Migration Department allows to live in the chosen place of residence.
Asylum information to the publicnull
In the context of several recent events in the world, the issue of asylum and refugees is becoming increasingly relevant to Lithuania. The increased interest of the media and politicians in this specific issue is not overlooked by the population of the country, but the public sometimes lacks general information about what “asylum” is and about who is given or refused the asylum. With this in mind, the Migration Department has prepared a cycle of brief information issues about asylum procedures for all those interested in refugee problems, aimed at dissipating certain myths, helping to part with stereotypes and attempt to learn together how to critically evaluate the information that reaches us. In order to make this information easier to assimilate, excessive links to legislation and citation of the provisions of this legislation have been deliberately abandoned therefore, this information is provided for the purposes of awareness and does not compare to legal consultation; it does not establish nor assume any legal obligations. If you would need further clarification on the information contained in the notices, please contact the Migration Department.
For your attention we provide brief explanations of the following issues:
1997 Lithuania ratified the 1951 United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees, thereby assuming international commitments to provide assistance to refugees. In 2004, when Lithuania accessed the European Union, it also became subject to the EU law imposing an obligation on each Member State to examine asylum applications and to grant asylum to those in need. These are the two main sources of Lithuania’s international obligations regarding the granting of asylum. As these commitments are assumed on behalf of the state, the state must fulfil them. In order for Lithuania to abandon this obligation, it should be denounce the aforementioned convention of 1951 (be the first stage state in history) and withdraw from the European Union. Thus, when discussing whether Lithuania should grant asylum, accept refugees, it is necessary to keep in mind that refusal of an asylum institution would violate Lithuania’s obligations to the United Nations and would be incompatible with the membership of the European Union.
The concept of “political asylum” does not exist in Lithuanian or European Union law. The subject of this notice is simply “asylum” (or “international protection”) without any “political” shades. In the media, the frequent and constantly misleading concept of “political asylum” implies the emergence of various myths, such as:
- “Asylum is granted only to political figures”;
- “Asylum is only granted to those fleeing persecution by political actors”;
- “Asylum is granted on the basis of political considerations”.
Not true. Asylum is granted or refused on the basis of legislation and not for political reasons. The asylum seeker’s political profile is only one of many possible factors that determine the need for asylum. It is precisely this narrowing of the essence of the asylum institute to “political” that prevents people from understanding the grounds for granting or refusing asylum and, in turn, naturally presupposes the emergence of other myths related to asylum, such as:
- “Granting asylum is recognition of the
- “Granting asylum is an expression of distrust in the country of origin of the refugee and an assessment of the overall situation in that country”;
- “Granting asylum is help to our “friends” or our enemies of our “enemies”.
All these assumptions are false and have nothing to do with the actual grounds and procedures for granting asylum. In Lithuania, as in any other country of the European Union, granting asylum is an administrative procedure strictly defined by law and not by the grace offered by individual state institutions or politicians. Examination of an asylum application is a fact finding, threat assessment and application of legal norms rather than a lottery based on prejudices and assumptions. Most importantly, the subject of this procedure is the person, not the country of origin, i.e. the individual situation of the individual, rather than the nationality he has. According to Donna Covey, former head of the UK Refugee Council: “NO COUNTRY IS SAFE FOR ANY PERSON ALL THE TIME. Those who really need protection, regardless of the country they come from, must have the right to apply for asylum in a safe place.” This approach is in line with the refugee law framework and ensures an individual and non-discriminatory examination of each asylum application. Despite the high level of assurance of human rights in the European Union, tens of EU citizens, including Lithuanian citizens, receive refugee status every year in the US. Would it be incredible for a US citizen to be granted asylum in a European Union country?
To sum up, the concept of “political asylum” is misleading, meaningless from a legal point of view, and is therefore not used.
The term “refugee” is interpreted, understood and used differently. In a semantic sense, a “refugee” is “the one who escaped”, i.e. any person forced to leave his usual environment. That is in what “refugees” are different from “economic migrants” – some were forced to leave their country and others were able to stay, but decided to leave looking for a better life. From a legal point of view (which we will consider), the concept of “refugee” is interpreted more narrowly, but also in two ways, as a subjective situation of a person or as a person’s legal status in the host country.
Based on the 1951 United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees, “refugee” is a person who, owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted on account of the race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country. This concept defines the status and position of the person himself and does not refer to the procedures of the state to which the refugee has entered, the procedures related to the identification of the circumstances, their confirmation and official recognition of the person as a refugee. A person may be a refugee who complies with this Convention definition but has never applied to the relevant authorities for his recognition as a refugee and for granting him refugee status.
In order for a person to acquire the legal status of a “refugee” in Lithuania, a procedure for determining the status of a refugee must be carried out, i.e. it must be checked and found, among other things, whether such a person is actually reasonably fears of persecution, that the persecution is related to the aforementioned characteristics of the person (race, religion, etc.) and that he cannot expect protection from his country against such persecution. After conducting such an investigation and finding that a person meets the definition of a “refugee”, he becomes a “recognised refugee”, i.e. acquires the “refugee status” and the right to use the guarantees provided to refugees in Lithuania. However, this investigation may also show that a person does not meet the definition of a “refugee”, i.e., that his fear of being persecuted is not entirely justified, that the actions he is facing do not constitute “persecution”, that the prosecution he is facing is not related to the stated reasons or that he could get protection from such persecution without leaving his country. In such cases, a person is not granted refugee status and is not considered a “refugee”.
Exactly according to the same principle, the concept of “criminal” known to all of us can be understood in two different ways. In the broad sense, a person becomes a “criminal” as soon as he has committed a crime, and he does not lose this subjective state irrespective of whether the crime has been disclosed. However, we can such a person a “criminal” in the legal sense only after the competent court, after having thoroughly assessed the evidence gathered during the investigation, recognises him guilty, and the acquitted person is not considered a “criminal”.
Media often report “refugees” arriving in Lithuania. As explained, incoming persons can actually be called “refugees” in the broad sense, but in order for a legal relationship to be established between the Lithuanian state and the incoming person as a “refugee”, first of all he/she must first be recognised as a “refugee”, i.e. pass the refugee status determination procedure (similarly, a person’s right to drive a car does not arise when he/she learns to drive, but only after passing the driving test and obtaining a driving license, i.e. after the competent body has assessed and approved his skills). That is why, when it comes to the “integration of incoming refugees”, it must always be borne in mind that this integration begins only after a person becomes a “recognised refugee” and is given a refugee status in Lithuania, not automatically to a person immediately when he arrives in Lithuania.
It is important to bear in mind that international protection (asylum) is granted to a person from actions that threaten him, not from those he has already experienced, because it is impossible to protect a person from what has already happened, i.e. the purpose of asylum is precisely to protect against what is at stake and not to “compensate” for what cannot be changed. Of course, past events may lead to the fears of a person's fear of experiencing analogous actions repeatedly, but the fact that a person has already been subjected to persecution or other forms of violence is not a prerequisite for granting asylum; it sufficient to determine that he reasonably is afraid to experience such acts in the future. In this way, we can dispel a few more myths:
- “A person needs asylum because he was persecuted”;
- “A person does not need asylum if he has not been persecuted”.
Both the first and the second statements are not fully justified, as there is no necessary link between the fact of persecution and the need for protection. With some reservations, we can paraphrase these statements to match the essence of the fundamentals of the refugee law:
- A person needs asylum because he reasonably FEARS TO EXPERIENCE persecution.
- A person does not need asylum if he WILL NOT BE persecuted.
During the examination of the application, it is necessary to evaluate a number of circumstances and to answer a number of questions that the criteria for granting refugee status imply:
Element of refugee concept
What needs to be determined
“is outside the country of origin”
- Is the country of origin of the asylum seeker considered to be determined? If yes, in what ways has the country of origin been determined? Based on documents or mere statements of the person alone?
“has a fully justified fear of being persecuted”
- Can an asylum seeker be exposed to the actions he/she has maimed, in his/her country of origin?
- Is this threat personalised, i.e. it occurs in person to the asylum seeker (or a specific group of persons to which he/she belongs)?
- Are the actions threatening the asylum seeker to be regarded as “persecution” as defined by law?
“threatening persecution is related to the applicant’s race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political beliefs”
- Are the personal traits held by the asylum seeker or attributed to him leading to persecution are “conventional reasons”?
- Is a causal link established between the “conventional reasons” and the persecution threatening to an asylum seeker?
“cannot or is afraid to use the protection of that state “
- Who is the perpetrator? Is persecution carried out by a state or a non-state entity? If the persecution is carried out by a non-state entity, can the asylum seeker benefit from the protection afforded by his/her state?
- Is there an area in the country of origin of the asylum seeker where he/she would not be prosecuted or protected from persecution, i.e. whether the threat exists throughout the territory of the country? Would he be subjected to a different type of persecution or serious harm in that area Can an asylum seeker travel safely and legally to that area? Will he be able to settle in it safely and legally? In the light of all the objective (relating to the “safe” area) and subjective circumstances (individual situation of the applicant), can it be reasonably concluded that it would be “wise” for a person in such a particular situation to move to this “safe” place?
This complex process includes, among other things, fact finding, gathering and evaluating evidence, analysing a specific situation in the context of legal norms, and making a well-informed decision. A decision that can affect a human life. Peter Showler, former chairman of the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Council, which is deciding on asylum, has described the work of the council members: “The members of the council see people every day who are telling imperfect stories of horrendous personal suffering that may or may not be true, and which are not easily verifiable by means of normal objective evidence. Their job is to listen carefully and quickly make a fully sound decision within the framework of laws and natural justice. It’s a humbling and challenging task, but it’s worth the effort”. In Lithuania, person is examining applications of asylum seekers are facing the same stories of the same asylum seekers as they are evaluating them according to the same principles. It is an extremely responsible job affecting its doer, requiring knowledge in a great variety of areas, a high level of competence and dedication.
As the asylum institute itself is based not only on the right of the person to seek asylum, but also on the duty of the State to provide asylum to whom it is needed, the burden of proof is shared between the asylum seeker and the Migration Department, i.e. all relevant circumstances are determined in cooperation with the asylum seeker, rather than demanding him to unilaterally prove each statement. Some of the asylum seeker’s narrative can be confirmed by documentary evidence, and the other part cannot, for objective reasons, for example, because hardly a potential “persecutor” will issue official certificates attesting to his intentions to persecute a person.
In the part that could be verified by documents, it is presumed that the asylum seeker will make every effort to submit these documents (for example, if a person claims to have been summoned to the police, he may be asked to provide summonses, and if he claims to have been tried, to produce court residual documents). In the event that a person is unable to provide the documents that could be objectively provided, he is required to give adequate reasons for the failure to produce the documents. Cases of counterfeiting are sometimes identified when assessing documents submitted by asylum seekers. Upon noticing possible signs of falsification in the official documents submitted by the applicant, the commission collaborates with the experts in the relevant field which performed the investigation and submit specialists conclusion about the authenticity of the document.
Of course, for the most part, and most of the time, an asylum seeker cannot support his narrative with documents; therefore, his own statements become the main evidence to be assessed in the case. The reliability of such non-documented claims must be assessed using the following criteria: 1) whether the asylum seeker’s story (s) is complete and have sufficient level of detail; 2) whether the asylum seeker’s oral and written data are consistent and not contradicting; 3) whether the statements of the asylum seeker do not contradict the information provided by family members/other witnesses; 4) whether the statements made by the asylum seeker do not contradict the available information on the situation in the country of origin and the facts of common knowledge; 5) whether this is likely to happen in this particular situation. In refugee law, the standard of proof is based on a balance of probabilities, i.e., the principle that the applicant’s alleged circumstance is more likely than unlikely.
Where it is established that the asylum seeker’s statements are contradictory, inconsistent, contrary to the objective information available on his country or for some other reason unreliable, as well as upon finding that the asylum seeker attempted to base his claims on forged documents, his story is rejected and not evaluated in deciding on granting him asylum. Such a rejection does not necessarily mean that a person cannot be granted asylum, because in some cases people simply try to “beautify” their story, fearing that their true stories may not be sufficient to get asylum (for example, a person can invent a personal conflict with an alleged persecutor, but this would not change the fact that a war is happening in his country and returning there would be unsafe to anyone). However, most often, they invented story leads to the refusal to grant asylum.
Assessing the credibility of an asylum seeker is one of the most difficult stages of the asylum procedure, which often remains “in the backstage”, therefore, sometimes the Migration Department is criticised for refusing to grant asylum to a person who “has told he is being persecuted”, but in fact none of his claims has passed the credibility test. It should simply be borne in mind that in some cases asylum is not given precisely because the applicant is not sufficiently reliable and not because he/she actually meets or does not meet the criteria for granting the asylum. Once it has been established that the asylum seeker’s story of the threatening prosecution is invented from scratch, and solely his statement cannot be considered a sufficient grounds for granting asylum.
We have already talked about the fact that the primary source of the concept of “refugee” is the 1951 United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees. Over time, it has become clear that the strict definition of the Convention in question, and in particular the fact that “refugee status” requires persecution for specific reasons, the list whereof is exhaustive, does not cover all possible situations where a person may need international protection. In view of the need to establish additional grounds for international protection (i.e. asylum), which would go beyond the strict requirements of the 1951 Convention and LO to protect a bigger circle of people, in 2004 at the level of the European Union and other form of protection was established – subsidiary protection (“ subsidiary”, i.e. granted for “subsidiary” (to conventional) grounds). Despite the fact that this concept is enshrined in the European Union and Lithuanian legislation in this particular form, for unclear reasons, in the media subsidiary protection is often referred to as “temporary protection”, “subsidiary legal protection” or “temporarily legal protection.” It should be noted that the subsidiary protection by its duration is not more or less “temporary” than the refugee status because asylum, irrespective of its form, is granted for the time it is necessary for a person, not for a predetermined period, therefore, calling this form of asylum “temporary protection” is not only wrong, but also totally unjustified. The same applies to the insertion of the word “legal” – because we do not say “the legal citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania” or “the legal pension of old age”, because there is no reason to “adorn” the legal concepts with additional insertions at our discretion.
Lithuania offers two forms of international protection (asylum): “refugee status” and “subsidiary protection”. Sometimes there is a stereotypical belief that refugee status is granted for more substantial reasons and “more serious” threats compared to subsidiary protection. Such an assumption is incorrect because, as will be explained below, the fundamental difference between these two forms of asylum is not the nature of actions or level of the need of protection but the causes for the threat to arise. For example, a threat that a person will be imprisoned for his/her political beliefs (“conventional” reason) leads to the granting of refugee status, while the threat of the same person being tortured or killed for “unconventional” reasons leads to subsidiary protection, although obviously that the execution would have more “serious” consequences for the person than the imprisonment. In the table below, we will compare the requirements for refugee status and subsidiary protection and analyse which of the necessary elements are similar and which are different.
REFUGEE STATUS is granted to
SUBSIDIARY PROTECTION is granted to
a person who is outside his home country
a person who is outside his home country
and feels completely reasoned fear
and feels completely reasoned fear:
to experience persecution
a) to experience torture, inhuman treatment or;
b) that he will be executed or sentenced to death, or;
c) that he suffers as a result of indiscriminate acts of violence in an international or domestic armed conflict
on account of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political belief
and who cannot enjoy the protection of his/her country.
and who cannot enjoy the protection of his/her country.
As we can see, the main difference between the requirements for providing these forms of asylum, as has already been mentioned, is the reason for the emergence of threatening actions – in the case of refugee status, they are strictly limited to “conventional” reasons, while no subsidiary protection is provided for these. Another difference that you may notice is the nature of the threatening action, but it should be noted that the threats for which subsidiary protection is provided (torture, executions, indiscriminate violence) are also automatically included in the concept of “persecution’, which is simply broader and, in addition to a number of other factors, sufficiently serious by their nature of frequency to constitute the grave violation of the fundamental human rights.
When examining a person’s application for asylum, the first step is to assess whether he/she can be granted refugee status and only if the refugee status cannot be granted, subsidiary protection is considered.
It is worth bearing in mind that war, like the coup d’état, famine or plague does not in itself constitute a “conventional” basis for granting refugee status, since the main element of the concept of “refugee” is individualised threat, i.e. directed against, a particular person. Nonetheless, in some cases, the causes of the conflict (such as “religious hatred”) or genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes committed by one or more of the conflicting parties may lead to massive flows of “conventional” refugees, as majority of potential victims of such conflict experience fully justified fear of being persecuted for one or another “conventional” reason. Some historical examples of such events are the Jewish genocide during World War II, the massacre in Rwanda in 1994, and the ethnic “cleansing” during the Bosnian war. In terms of the 1951 United Nations Convention, all the people who flee from such actions are “refugees”, but the same strict rules do not allow the recognition of “refugees” as people fleeing from the threats of war, unrelated to their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political group beliefs. In other words, in 1951 The United Nations Convention does not create a protection regime for people just fleeing from war. This remains one of the reasons for criticizing the “conventional” concept of refugee, which has led to the need for additional grounds for international protection, which in turn has led to the creation of a new form of asylum at the level of the European Union in 2004 – “subsidiary protection”. At present, every person, although not meeting the strict requirements for refugee status, but whose country of origin has a “serious and personal threat to his life, health, safety or liberty due to indiscriminate acts of violence in an international or domestic armed conflict” must be eligible for subsidiary protection and asylum in the host country.
Criminal prosecution of a person does not in itself constitute grounds for granting refugee status, unless such persecution would be disproportionate and discriminatory. Even if the criminal prosecution is carried out by a well-known repressive regime, this alone is not considered to be the basis for granting refugee status, because a person may be reasonably accused of having committed a criminal offense which would also be considered a crime in Lithuania and would be punished in Lithuania. The subject of the assessment in such cases is usually the element of “disproportionality and discrimination” in the accusations made against the person. Does the mere fact that a person is politically active and opposes the politics of his country’s government automatically mean that his criminal prosecution is politically motivated and the accusations are “made up”? Unfortunately, not because engagement in politics in Lithuania or in any other country does not guarantee that a person, is engaged who in parallel in other activities (e.g., farming), will not violate the relevant laws, and the asylum institute should not be considered a “refuge” from liability. In this particular situation, the prosecution on account of political views can only be established by establishing a causal link between the political activities of the present and the merits of the accusations made against him. Ignoring and disregarding this causal link, as one of the essential criteria and elements of granting refugee status, sometimes leads to the belief that Lithuania offers protection to criminals or vice versa – refuses to protect victims of repressive regimes. Not true. Granting of refugee status to a person who is accused of criminal proceedings in his/her home country is not possible without the identification of the “conventional” attributes of persecution in the charges against him. Likewise, refusing to grant refugee status to an opposition figure threatened with imprisonment in his country is possible only if the sentence is completely unrelated to his political views.
The Migration Department is the only institution in Lithuania authorised to consider with asylum applications and to decide on asylum. No other institution in Lithuania performs these functions. Asylum seekers dissatisfied with decisions of the Migration Department, despite the principle of division of power, often appeal to the President of the Republic, the Seimas, MEPs, ministers with complaints and requests to affect the outcome of the proceedings. No such appeal and no attempt to influence the Migration Department by political pressure have been successful. The only way to change the Migration Department’s decision is to go to a court which, after assessing all the relevant circumstances and having identified legal or factual deficiencies in such a decision, can annul it and refer the case back to the Migration Department for re-examination.
In 2015, when the process of relocating asylum seekers from other countries began, there were many different reports on “first refugees in Lithuania” in public domain. This type of misleading wording presupposes that there were no refugees in Lithuania until 2015, and if they were any, they were not “real refugees” or did not stay in Lithuania. The first application for asylum in Lithuania was filed in 1995, before the establishment of the Lithuanian asylum system. This application was filed by a family of Iraqi citizens who, in November 1997, i.e. after two years of waiting, were granted refugee status in Lithuania by the decision of the then Minister of the Interior V. Žiemelis. Interestingly, this was not the first decision to grant refugee status in Lithuania – the first such decision was made several months earlier in respect of a family of Georgian citizens. Thus, the “first” recognised refugees in Lithuania after the restoration of its independence appeared almost 20 years ago, and not after the relocation. Since then, hundreds of people applying for asylum in Lithuania every year, and during the years 1997 to 2015, thousands of such applications were examined; over 200 asylum seekers have been granted refugee status in Lithuania in the meantime, and since 2004 more than 800 people who are unable to return to their countries for military conflicts and human rights violations have also received subsidiary protection. To sum up, refugees (including persons from Syria and Iraq) have come to Lithuania for many years now, and the people who are currently located are neither the first nor the last to find peace in our country and a chance to start a new life.
Often, the media publishes information that the Migration Department refuses to comment its decisions on granting or denial of asylum. In fact, the Migration Department refuses even to confirm or deny the fact of granting asylum to a specific person. Although the reasons for refusing such information are always explained to journalists, these explanations usually remain “in the backstage”, and the Migration Department is depicted to the public as a closed and non-transparent organisation that arbitrarily refuses to provide the public with information about its work.
Indeed, the dissemination of this kind of information is prohibited by the laws of Lithuania, which must be followed by the Migration Department. Data on foreigners relating to asylum procedures, including data on individual administrative decisions on granting them asylum (or not) are considered to be personal data subject to the requirements of the Law on Legal Protection of Personal Data of the Republic of Lithuania. In accordance with the aforementioned law, the Migration Department has no right to publicly disclose the decision made on applications of persons. For similar reasons, the State Tax Inspectorate would refuse to provide you with information about the debts of your co-worker to the state, the State Patient Fund, information on whether your neighbour is covered by compulsory health insurance, and the banks – with information about the loans received by your acquaintance. As far as the protection of personal data is concerned, asylum seekers and persons who have been granted asylum are in the same position as we are – Lithuanian citizens. Even if we have nothing to hide, we would hardly want the information available to institutions and bodies on all aspects of our personal life to be easily made available to anyone interested.
Another reason why the Migration Department cannot comment on decisions in specific cases is the general requirement established in the European Union law for institutions examining applications for asylum, to ensure the compliance with the principle of confidentiality. The purpose of such a requirement is to avoid situations in which an alleged prosecutor becomes aware of an application for asylum, which is particularly true when the family members of the asylum seeker who may be affected by such disclosure remain in the country of origin. There are a number of repressive regimes in the world, which have unfavourable attitudes about cases when their victims lead the country and, having reached a safe haven, start speaking publicly about crimes of the regime. There are also cases when people live in constant fear before they leave the country, concealing their true views or qualities, and reveal them only when they arrive in the country of asylum. If today there was public information that such a person had applied for asylum in Lithuania for such reasons, tomorrow his parents, remaining in the country of origin, would be killed because of the acts of their son or daughter, who would assume liability? Lithuanian media? Hardly. That is why in this case the priority is given to the interests of the individual, not to the need to inform the public.
The context of the relegation processes is well known to all of us. Wars in the Middle East, sinking boats with hundreds of people, overcrowded refugee camps, thousands of humans marching on highways and fences built by the countries – these are staggering images we have been seen on the news all year round. Suddenly, something what happened somewhere in the far end of the world, thousands of miles from our home, has become our own reality, part of our lives. It is not surprising that the opinions of European citizens on this issue were different – some warmly welcomed the arriving migrants, while others protested against their admission until the events finally became just a backdrop of diametrically opposed, but equally aggressive political rhetoric, which became more ardent soon as the asylum seekers were relocated from Italy and Greece to other European Union countries. As politicians plunged into the endless debate “FOR or AGAINST” the relocation of refugees, were left behind the purpose of the relegation process itself, its content, and the actual legal status of the relegated people, all of whom we are accustomed to mistakenly calling “refugees”, in our case – In Lithuania. This notice is dedicated precisely to these aspects of relocation.
It is probably right to start with the fact that, according to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, every human being has the right to seek asylum from persecution. By exercising this right, people come to the countries of the European Union in search of asylum, which, on the bases of the assumed international obligations and criteria, must evaluate each appeal of such person for asylum and decide whether he can be granted the international protection (asylum). We have already written about the content of these procedures and the forms of international protection. There are no asylum systems in the world that are flexible and powerful enough to accommodate an unlimited number of asylum seekers at the same time. When the numbers of asylum seekers asking for asylum significantly exceed the capacity of the state asylum system, such a system becomes ineffective, accommodation possibilities for asylum seekers is not sufficient, and the number of pending applications is growing, as decisions on applications for asylum are made slower than new applications. It was in this situation that several European Union Member States, notably Italy and Greece, were hit last year by an unprecedented influx of applicants. When it became evident that these countries would certainly not be able to deal with such flows of asylum seekers, and the current situation also began to threaten the asylum systems of other countries, because people, facing the ineffectiveness of the applicant reception systems in Italy and Greece, began to massively move on to other European countries. At the EU level, measures have been agreed to help Italian and Greek asylum systems overcome the consequences of the influx of asylum seekers. The key element of these approved measures is the transfer of asylum seekers from Italy and Greece to other European Union countries, which would be responsible for examining their asylum applications and taking decisions. In other words, in accordance with the general principle that every application for asylum must be properly examined and a reasoned decision must be made for each such application, the European Union Member States, including Lithuania, have committed themselves to examining applications for which Italy and Greece lacked capacity.
That is why the people being transferred to Lithuania come in the status of “asylum seekers” rather than refugees. They come to have their asylum applications properly examined, hoping that they will receive international protection. From a legal point of view, the asylum seeker, a Syrian national, who has been transferred from Greece, is no different from the same asylum seeker – a Syrian, who has come to Lithuania independently from another country. It is necessary for both of us to go through all the procedures relating to the examination of an asylum application, both whereof are subject to the same requirements, the same assessment criteria and the standards we have already written about. A completely natural question – why is it needed, because we all know what is happening in Syria? Of course, most Syrians would qualify for subsidiary protection as they flee from the war. However, such a decision cannot be made without first assessing whether each of them may be granted refugee status for individual reasons. People of different denominations, of different nationalities and professions flee Syria (and Iraq); therefore, the examination of their applications requires individual approach and work with each asylum seeker in the context of an appropriate assessment of each individual situation in the country of origin. If, after performing the necessary procedures, it is decided to grant asylum to such a person in Lithuania, his/her integration into Lithuanian society begins, he/she learns the state language, help is provided to his settlement and finding a job. Since one of the goals set by this notice of the Migration Department reports is not only to inform but also to dispel certain myths, in this section we would like to emphasise that:
Not “refugees” are transferred to Lithuania from other countries of the European Union, but “asylum seekers” whose applications for asylum have not been examined and evaluated by any state prior to their arrival in Lithuania, considering whether they may be granted a refugee status. The transfer itself is by no means can be equivalent to granting asylum.
Asylum seekers are transferred to Lithuania not to “integrate” them, but to ensure that their asylum applications are properly examined, because that is the commitment our country has made.
The “path” of foreigners in the transfer process (schematic illustration):
Link to the file:
Foreigners” Registration Centre of the State Border Guard Service under the Ministry of the Interior
Švenčionys district, 18177 Pabradė, Vilniaus g. 100
Tel. (8,387) 53,401, fax (8 387) 63 012
Refugee Reception Centre under the Ministry of Social Security and Labour
Jonava district, Rukla. Karaliaus Mindaugo g. 18
Tel. /fax (8 3) 497 3377
Regional Office in Vilnius of the Regional Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
LT-01105 Vilnius, A. Jakšto g. 12
Tel. (8 5) 2,107,416, fax (8 5) 2 107 401
Lithuanian Red Cross Society
LT-09316 Vilnius, A. Juozapavičiaus g. 10A
Tel. (8 5) 212 7322, fax (8 5) 261 9923
Mob. 8 686 30 050
Vilnius Office of International Organisation for Migration
LT-01105 Vilnius, A. Jakšto g. 12
Tel. (8 5) 261 0101, fax (8 5) 261 0115