Lithuania

31

Overview

Lithuania, a country of emigration, saw recent slight rises in immigration, mostly returning Lithuanians. Neighbouring Belarusians, Russians and Ukrainians are increasingly attracted to come and work or study, depending on economic conditions.

Since 2007, policies still provide non-EU newcomers with slightly unfavourable integration opportunities, one of the weakest of all 31 MIPEX countries. Their chances to reunite with their families, settle as long-term residents or fight a discrimination case are average for Europe, because of EU law. Since 2007, discrimination victims have negligibly better options to enforce their rights, following European trends. Policies make the labour market no more attractive than in most Central European countries with few immigrants. Lithuania, like the other Baltic countries, has restricted political opportunities and citizenship paths more than most European countries, while schools are some of the least prepared to welcome all types of migrant pupils. The major challenge across integration policy is the discretion left to authorities and the uncertainty created for foreign residents. Migrant workers, family members, longterm residents and citizens are some of the most insecure in their status in Europe

Timeline - What's Changed

+5 July 2008
Anti-discrimination
Law on Equal Treatment amended.
0 June 2009
Family reunion
Law on Legal Status of Aliens.
+5 June 2009
Anti-discrimination
Criminal Code is amended.

Key Findings

  • Lithuania scores below the half-way mark (40) and ranks 27th. 
  • Better access to labour market than most Baltic States, but overall economic polices just average for Central Europe. 
  • Simple conditions for family reunion undermined by insecure and dependent status, as in Central Europe. 
  • Long-term residence, average for Europe, though also more discretionary. 
  • Limited voting rights, but no other meaningful opportunities to participate in political life. 
  • 3rd worst access to nationality in Lithuania, missing out on several European trends. 
  • Wide definition of anti-discrimination is undermined by limited scope. 
  • Enforcement improved, but remains below average. 
  • Equal Opportunities Ombudsman has strong independent powers to help victims. 

Score Changes

Areas of Integration

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    Lithuanian policies make the labour market slightly unattractive to migrant workers who want to integrate long-term. Non-EU temporary migrants do have slightly favourable access to their first job in all sectors except the public sector (as in only 9 other MIPEX countries). But they then face a long, inflexible path to improve their careers, skills and qualifications in Lithuania. Upon arrival, temporary workers are locked into their jobs, without an automatic right to change jobs and sectors for 5 years, until they become long-term residents. If they lose their job, they must technically leave the country, which means public employment services and targeted measures are partly inaccessible(see CZ, EE, RO).

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    Policies are halfway encouraging for non-EU families, as in most countries under EU law, but plagued by discretion, as common across Central Europe. Only 8 other MIPEX countries keep families so long apart with their residence requirements. Non-EU couples wait longer than EU citizens and Lithuanians (age 21), as in only 7 others, without clear justification for this in national legislation. Beyond that, families meeting other inclusive legal conditions (e.g. registered partners, as in 14) face slightly discretionary procedures, with limited legal guarantees. Families are the 3rd most insecure of all countries, just above IE (without any policy here) and LV. Reunited families experience similar rights (work, education, benefits) and obstacles (independent status) as in most countries.

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    Scoring fourth from the bottom, Lithuanian schools lack much of the basic infrastructure to welcome migrant pupils. Without access and targeted support for all migrant children at different school levels, those that can attend at least compulsory education may fall behind their peers. Newcomers can receive quality language support. Those not belonging to national minorities cannot learn mother tongues (unlike 22 countries) or cultures (14). Lithuania misses these new opportunities, like most Central European countries. But as immigration increases, Lithuanian pupils may not be equipped for a diverse society. Intercultural education is part of official aims, like most countries, but few schools receive systematic support to implement this in school life and curricula (see CZ, EE, SK).

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    Beyond limited voting rights, Lithuania does not value active migrant civic participation, a problem across Central Europe. Non-EU permanent residents can vote and stand in local elections, with Lithuania leading the region on this European trend towards best practice (see also EE, HU, SK, SI). Still, they cannot be members of the parties that they vote for or represent them as candidates. On the MIPEX scale, non-EU nationals enjoy only half their basic political liberties, which are problematic in CZ, EE, LV, PL, RO, SK. Beyond occasional projects, they are not supported in representing their interests through immigrant consultative bodies or structural funding for immigrant civic participation.

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    Permanently insecure?

    Long-term residents in Lithuania are some of the most insecure in their status. EC Long-term Residence aims to give ‘reinforced protection against expulsion’, in line with decisions of the European Court of Human Rights that security is a fundamental characteristic of this status. However, a long-term resident in Lithuania will always risk being expelled, regardless of how long they have had their status and without consideration of some key personal circumstances. Lithuania scores among the lowest on security, like many other Central European countries.

    To enjoy rights guaranteed by EU law, non-EU nationals wanting long-term residence go through rather average policies in Lithuania, but face slightly more conditions and less security (see box). The eligibility criteria for the standard 5-year-residence requirement are as favourable. All their time as students in Lithuania qualifies (as in 4 others), but they disqualify for periods abroad (6). Moreover, long-term residence is denied for those unable to meet integration conditions as restrictive as for citizenship. Only 5 others require so much and provide so little support (e.g. ad hoc courses from European Integration Fund). These go far beyond average trends to impose just basic requirements (e.g. CZ, FR, PT) or none at all (12). 

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    Foreigners still undergo long, complicated and discretionary paths to citizenship in Baltic States like Lithuania. Now a generation after independence, newcomers’ children and eventual grandchildren will still be foreigners at birth, going against international trends (now 15 MIPEX countries, recently GR, LU, PT). The first generation waits 10 years in total. All are not well supported to succeed in language and citizenship tests (unlike in EE and LV). New citizens in Lithuania are some of the most insecure in their status. They can be rejected even if meeting the legal conditions (unlike in 10) and lose citizenship, even if leading to statelessness (unlike 19). Dual nationality (allowed in 18) is still not possible except for refugees.

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    All residents in Lithuania enjoy less discrimination protection than citizens in most European countries. The legal definitions of antidiscrimination in the Law of Equal Treatment are far broader than in other Baltic and Central European countries. The law protects against all grounds of discrimination (including nationality, as in 14 other MIPEX countries) and covers discrimination by association and on the basis of assumed characteristics. All actors in the private and public sector, including the police force, must respect the law, as in 26.

    Nevertheless, victims enjoy such wide protection in fewer areas of life than 24 of the 30 other MIPEX countries. They are explicitly protected in education and employment, but not social protection, social advantages and access to goods and services (including health, housing). There is no case law available to prove otherwise.

    The mechanisms to enforce the law are better, but still below the European average. Since the July 2008 amended Law on Equal Treatment, victims can now benefit from sharing the burden of proof (as in 17) and bring a civil case before the court. Discriminatory motivation will also be treated as an aggravating factor, following criminal code changes that correspond to provision in 14 countries. Still, they are discouraged by the challenge to bring forward a case alone. The long procedures do not involve full sanctions (unlike 20) or formal dispute resolution alternatives (unlike 19). Victims can turn to the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman, which is just as strong as in 8 countries (e.g. BG, HU, RO). It can offer independent assistance, issue binding appealable decisions and instigate its own investigations and proceedings. Some in government are working on equality policies. But without a legal commitment to regular information campaigns, dialogue and State duties to promote equality, few Lithuanian residents may know and use their rights.