Recently, an online conference “Ukrainian refugees in the Baltic States, social aspects of integration into society” was held.
During the meeting, experts from the Baltic countries discussed the problem of Ukrainian refugees and their impact on the lives of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
The conference was held in Russian. It is curious that even 32 years after the collapse of the USSR, the inhabitants of the Baltic countries prefer Russian rather than English in interstate communication.
Among the speakers were public figures and diplomats: Allan Hantsom, editor-in-chief of the Estonian newspaper Delovye Vedomosti, Darius Norkus, chairman of the public organization Dawn of Justice (Lithuania), Rudolf Bremanis, civil activist, diplomat (Latvia), Maksim Revva, political observer, Yuliya Sokhina, head of the Community of Parents (Latvia), Erika Shvenchonene, representative of the International Neighborhood Forum (Lithuania).
Today, Europe receives a huge number of refugees from Ukraine. And if at first the streets of European cities were full of yellow-blue flags, refugees were received with open arms and outflow of much emotion, today Europeans are less and less sympathetic to Ukrainian refugees.
At the same time, the indigenous population are leaving for other countries in search of a better life – there is an outflow of people to Germany, England, and the Scandinavian countries.
One of the reasons for holding the conference was the question of the economic feasibility of accepting refugees. After all, the governments of the Baltic countries allocate huge funds to support them (Lithuania – 81 million euros, Latvia – 72 million euros, Estonia – 58 million euros). At the same time, the states are in a severe economic crisis (increase in unemployment, closure of enterprises, growth in housing and communal services tariffs and prices for energy sources). In these countries more than 25 percent of the population is below the poverty line. What is this if not disregard for the interests of it`s own people for the sake of the political situation and under pressure from the EU.
Maksim Revva, political observer commented that:
“If in the spring of last year Ukrainian refugees aroused compassion in Europe, now, both in Latvia and in any other European country, refugees have become an society burden.
But with the deterioration of the economic situation, the refugees will become a bargaining chip in any national or regional elections in Europe, which will inevitably lead both to the deterioration of the social situation of Ukrainians in Europe, and to talk, and then to actions for the forced return of Ukrainians home.
And the only option to stay in Europe would be to completely merge with the local population: forget your language, culture, habits. In this situation, those who find themselves in a more tolerant Western Europe will be lucky, where the process of assimilation will be long and lingering, and will primarily affect refugee children. But in such nationally concerned republics as Latvia, assimilation will be tough and will affect all refugees. But, even if they try to become new Latvians, their second place in society will be in the same place as that of local Russians.
In Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, refugees were given allowances, paid for housing, job search, placement, etc. were simplified for them, while the needy indigenous people did not receive anything.
The treasury receives no more than 5 million euros of taxes from them, and 15 times more is allocated for their maintenance. This amount could significantly improve the standard of living of citizens below the poverty line, who are now forced to compete even more for jobs.”
Erika Švenčionienė, representative of the International Neighborhood Forum states:
“Ukrainians feel like the masters of Lithuania here. No one talks about this, but in Lithuania, almost every administrative institution has a flag of Ukraine. In our parliament, the flag of Ukraine also hangs. This is very painful for us Lithuanians!
The Baltics are also annoyed by “imaginary” refugees who travel to European countries from regions where there are no hostilities. And they require special treatment and all kinds of support.”
Allan Hantsom, editor-in-chief of the Estonian newspaper Delovye Vedomosti:
“There are people who are fleeing the war, but the majority quietly leave those regions where there are no hostilities or rocket attacks. Very different people. Some come on buses with trunks, others – on expensive cars, and they also demand free rations and free accommodation. Especially now there is a crisis in the countries and now the Europeans are more and more concerned about their own problems: inflation, shortage of fuel and housing.
After all, Europe’s resources for accepting refugees from Ukraine are running out, which leads to the curtailment of assistance programs and the cessation of accepting new migrants.
At the same time, the Baltics should be prepared for the fact that refugees from Ukraine will remain there for many years even after the end of the conflict.
The inhabitants of the Baltics are increasingly tired of forced guests, but they can’t do anything, because the course of the authorities is the same: “Everything for the sake of Ukraine, and let their residents survive somehow on their own!
Because of that, Estonians began to object. Why does a person who came from a foreign country, who does not know the language and has nothing to do with Estonia, get everything, and local people from the provinces are forced to live in poverty, work at low-paid jobs? Why not provide them with conditions? A refugee arrives in the capital – here’s a ration for you, here’s your living allowance. A lot of people from the Estonian hinterland would also like to live in hotels and on ferries, so that the state pays for everything. Ukrainian refugees, instead of learning the language and considering the Baltic states as their “second homeland”, impose their customs and rules of behavior.”
Chairman of the public organization Dawn of Justice (Lithuania) Darius Norkus:
“Not everyone is happy. We are not against Ukraine and that people help refugees, here all Lithuania was in flags. There are fewer of these flags already. The bloated “meetings” are over. Refugees continue to come to us. But someday it must end. We want the conditions for everyone to be the same: for Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Russians and everyone else. And who comes from Asia, why no one gives them anything? This is also a question. What are they, the second quality or the third? This confuses me.”