According to the UNHCR, 1,007 refugees resided in Lithuania in 2014. In 2014, 385 first-time asylum applications were made, an increase from 250 in 2013. In 2014, the top three citizenships of asylum applicants were Georgia (115), Afghanistan (85) and Ukraine (70).
An interview with a Head of State Border Protection (VSAT), published by a news website Delfi, revealed that contrary to traditional migration routes from east to west, a new refugee route leading from the south towards Scandinavia now emerges.
The government’s approach
The government opposed mandatory quotas, however it voted in favour of the refugee relocation plan.
The government also hinted at an information campaign using media in order provide Lithuanians with knowledge about refugees.
Social Security and Labour Ministry announced plans to open refugee integration centres in three largest cities. The centres will provide language training, legal and psychological counselling, information, advice and other assistance.
Recently the chairman of the Lithuanian Seimas National Security and Defence Committee proposed a ban of burqas in public as these pose a threat to security. The suggestion was criticised by the activists. In a statement the Lithuanian prime minister advised a focus on debate about refugee integration instead.
There were instances of the rejection of refugee relocation at the local level.
Refugees in host communities
Several citizens’ initiatives took place. Marches in solidarity with refugees were organised. Civil society organisations initiated the registration of people willing to host refugees. Some Lithuanian universities offered free study places for refugees.
A social experiment on hate speech was popularised on social media in order to promote a website providing a digital handbook for victims of bullying and hate speech online, and at schools, workplaces, etc.
In response to the debate about burqas, information campaigns were initiated to raise knowledge about refugees, including facts and numbers.
The refugee crisis became the main topic in the media, after tensions with Russia, but some media take a negative stance and raise fears.
Media publish information about refugees to raise knowledge.
In spring 2015, 13 per cent of Lithuanians declared that immigration is one of the main issues facing the country. This was an increase of 3 percentage points from autumn 2014.