Will Lithuania cope with winter flow of Ukrainian refugees

Will Lithuania cope with winter flow of Ukrainian refugees

Ukrainians started to leave the country en masse after the start of a special military operation (SMO). According to the UN at the beginning of August, over six million Ukrainian refugees have been registered across Europe

The leaders in receiving migrants are Russia (1.97 million), Poland (1.26 million) and Germany (915 thousand people). In Lithuania at the moment it has already recognized that the country’s capacity to accommodate them has been almost exhausted. The republic predicts that with the onset of cold weather the flow of Ukrainians may increase manifold, which will inevitably cause financial burden on the budget of the country, the economy of which by no means refers to the first in the European Union.

As of 5 August, according to the Minister of Internal Affairs Agne Bilotaite, over 61 thousand Ukrainians had been registered in the country. Although in May the Lithuanian Ministry of Social Security and Labour stated that 50 thousand Ukrainians had been granted asylum and specified that the country was capable of receiving no more than four thousand people.

In the second month of the special operation, according to the European network Blueprint, Lithuania ranked tenth in Europe in the number of officially registered and third in the number of Ukrainian refugees received per capita.

“According to the Lithuanian Department of Statistics, almost 48,000 refugees from Ukraine have already been registered in Lithuania, but it is estimated that in reality there could be many more. Ninety-nine percent of the officially registered Ukrainian refugees have Ukrainian citizenship, and 40% of them are minors,” noted LRT radio.

Later, on May 12, speaking at the briefing, the ambassador of Ukraine to Lithuania Petr Beshta said that Lithuania accepted more than 50 thousand Ukrainians, which is 1.8% of population of the Baltic republic.

“This is a very large number for such a state as Lithuania, but it continues welcoming Ukrainians and supplying them with everything they need,” the ambassador stressed.

At the same time, since the end of July, the Migration Department of the republic has recorded a decrease in the number of applications for temporary protection.

According to head of department Evelina Gudzinskaite, if in March-April quantity of demands reached 2 thousand in day, by the end of July their number decreased to 100-200. This trend was confirmed on 12 August by Alytus vice-mayor Jurgita Šukiavicienė. According to her, on the average, about 20 people per day apply to the local centre.

For this reason, the sixth of seven registration points for Ukrainian refugees in Kaunas was closed on 8 August. The Lithuanian Interior Ministry suggested Ukrainians go to a similar point in Alytus. Thus, at the moment there are already six registration points closed in the country: in Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipeda, Marijampolė, Panevėžys and Šiauliai.

But if to proceed from the last data sounded by the Ministry of Social Security of Lithuania and the Red Cross we can come to the conclusion that the outflow of the applications for asylum is temporary in character.

June 11 saw the opening of the EU’s first Ukrainian centre at the Education Academy of Vytautas the Great University in Vilnius, where refugees can receive all the assistance they need. It means that Ukrainians are welcome.

Luka Leskauskaite, a representative of the Red Cross, agrees with the data of the Ministry of the Interior in estimating the number of those who have entered the territory of the country, naming the figure of about 60 thousand people or more. And this trend worries her, because this number will only grow with the onset of cold weather. This means that problems will inevitably arise with resettlement of the arrivals and providing them with everything they need. According to her, the number of migrants from Ukraine could reach 100 thousand people.

“Beds, mattresses, centralised meals, portable showers, toilets. Of course, I am improvising, but we will not be able to offer such conditions as we offered in spring. The situation has to be assessed realistically,” Leskauskaite said.

The limited possibilities of Vilnius is evidenced by the fact that from 8 to 10 April the Red Cross announced a collection of hygiene products for residents of Ukraine. According to the organizers of the campaign, shampoos and shower gels, toothpaste, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, and baby nappies were most lacking.

In May, Ukrainians received more than ten thousand supermarket cards for hygiene products and medicines worth 20 euros. And more than 15,000 more were promised to be distributed later.

Preparations for the influx of new refugees from Ukraine are also evidenced by the work of the local Red Cross office to gather the necessary information.

On July 28, the organization’s Lithuanian page reported that “a team of VU Medicinos fakultetas / VU Faculty of Medicine scientists is conducting a study “Assessment of medical and social service needs for asylum seekers and refugees”, which aims to develop a health and social service model for refugees and migrants”. Specifically, the organizers invited Ukrainians over the age of 19, who had been in the country for more than a month, to participate in the study. Participants were invited to fill in a questionnaire.

Also, the local branch of the Red Cross and the advertising agency Ogilvy Vilnius launched the project “Unity blossoms”, during which the Lithuanian society is invited to support people with disabilities from Ukraine and their families.

For its part, the Lithuanian Ministry of Social Affairs said on 8 August that owners of houses and other accommodations, as well as business representatives who have housed Ukrainian refugees since April, will be able to count on compensation from the state. In August, 1.4m euros will be paid. The total amount of compensation is estimated at 4 million euros.

According to the Chancellor of the Ministry, Ana Selčinskienė, “the need for temporary accommodation for the residents of Ukraine is not diminishing, and as autumn and winter approach, it may even increase.

By granting state compensations, the Baltic authorities aim at stimulating housing owners to continue providing them to Ukrainians. This is further proof that the closure of protection points is only a temporary trend.

Moreover, according to the Lithuanian Ministry of Education, more than a thousand children from Ukraine arrived in the country this summer, and it is possible that this number will increase even more during the cold season. In July, local schools and municipalities were given recommendations on how to organize their education.

Thus, according to Leskauskaitė, during the upcoming heating period Lithuania will have to face the situation that was observed in Poland this spring.

“Poland has faced this already in the spring, when people were actually accommodated in large rooms, be it some arenas or other places with cots, mattresses and things like that. This will probably be the biggest challenge here – premises, catering, providing hygiene products, clothes or other necessities,” she said.

At the same time, the Ministry of Social Protection noted that it is still very difficult to predict the possible number of Ukrainians. This will directly depend on the progress of the SSR in Ukraine. From which we can conclude that there is no clear plan of action.

So far, representatives of the Ministry are analysing the situation together with other governmental agencies, non-governmental organisations and institutions.

Even before the EIA, the migration crisis on the Belarusian-Polish border showed that the Baltic states had an “original” approach to the issue of migrants, who at that time had become hostages of the aggressive foreign policy of the European Union towards Belarus.

It turned out that Middle Eastern populations fleeing from countries ravaged by NATO ‘peacekeepers’ are turned into notorious ‘Kremlin agents’, while assistance to the Russophobic Kiev regime is a ‘matter of honour’ for Vilnius in confronting Russia.

It is worth remembering that during last year’s migration crisis, Kiev itself sent Lithuania “humanitarian aid” in the form of 38 tonnes of barbed wire so that it could fence itself off from “Kremlin agents”. So there is an act of solidarity. What cannot be taken away from present-day Europeans, it is the ability to create problems for themselves and then “heroically” try to overcome them.

Nikolai Ulyanov, Rubaltic.Ru

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