Lithuania: how the nationwide quarantine impact on refugees and migrants
Amidst the coronavirus epidemic, the Lithuanian government has announced a nationwide quarantine which came into effect on 16th of March. The measures include closing state borders, educational institutions, client-servicing businesses, bars, restaurants and shops, excluding groceries and pharmacies.
Access to administrative procedures: residency and asylum procedure
The shutdown of national borders prohibits foreign nationals to enter Lithuania unless they have a valid long term stay permit.The Migration Department continues to provide services, except accepting requests related to the citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania, and non-urgent matters are being postponed. Consultations are being provided via phone or online.Foreigners whose period of legal residence in Lithuania expired during the quarantine and who were unable to depart from the Republic of Lithuania, may stay in country till the epidemic stay will be lifted.
Despite the lockdown Lithuania continue to accept asylum applications. But the interviews are currently suspended. Reception centers and migration camps remain under quarantine since the 13th of march.
NGOs express concerns regarding to asylum seekers, who received negative response to their asylum application during the quarantine. Due to the pandemic situation these people cannot leave the country, thus not holding any status remain illegal and officially do not have the right to receive any support in the country.
Access to health services
On the 21st of April Ministry of Health of the Republic of Lithuania released information that in order to protect the society from the COVID-19 in the most effective ways, it has been decided to provide free treatment for foreign nationals and Lithuanian returnees who do not have a health insurance.
Socioeconomic situation of refugees raises concern
The further concern is related to the precarious economic situation of refugees and migrants who lose jobs and livelihoods because of the epidemic. Most of them work in the service sector, which is significantly affected by the COVID-19. Moreover, people who obtained the protection and recently graduated vocational training are not able to fulfill the obligation to start working, as it is extremely difficult to find a job in accordance to the acquired qualification during the lockdown.
As personal contact is limited because of obligatory self-isolation social organizations provide online assistance to help and support refugees and migrants. For example, an online Lithuanian doctor volunteer network MEDo provides health-related consultations that are available in English, Swedish, and Norwegian. Translators offer free translation services for the spread of information. HUMAN AID has launched a mutual assistance and online volunteering platform for refugees and asylum seekers living in Lithuania „Stream“, which enhances community involvement remotely during the time of quarantine. The initiative organises online seminars, workshops, training and counselling on a wide range of topics and content in different languages. Volunteers also assist the school children for distance learning. NGOs provided computers for some families, however, the lack of computers remain serious problem. There are some initiatives to solve this problem.
Free treatment of covid-19 for foreigners and lithuanian returnees
Legal Status of Foreigners in the Republic of Lithuania during the Quarantine