2019.09.27 12:54

Latvia moves to end Russian non-citizen deadlock

BNN, LRT.lt2019.09.27 12:54

The Latvian parliament, Saeima, has approved a draft law that gives citizenship to all Latvian newborns, regardless if their parents have a non-citizen status.

The draft law states that children born after January 1, 2020 to non-citizen parents will no longer be given the non-citizen status, as reported by Saeima’s press-service, according to BNN.

Latvia and Estonia are the only two nations in the EU that issued ‘alien’ passports to mostly Russian non-citizens after independence. To receive the respective country’s citizenship, the ethnic Russians have to pass a language and citizenship exam, which has forced a deadlock between the non-citizen community and the local governments for decades.

“In spite of discussions that took place during the meeting about widening or narrowing the range of children to whom the legislative draft will apply, we decided to preserve the initial proposal and prevent dividing Latvian residents into group,” said the chairman of Saeima’s Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee Artuss Kaimiņš.

“The topic remains sensitive. It is expected that discussions will continue during the development process of the legislative draft,” he added.

The proposal would automatically give Latvia’s newborns the country’s citizenship if their parents have no plans to claim another nationality for their child.

If a child is born outside Latvia, or one of the parents is a foreign national, the newborn would receive citizenship only after the parents submit a request to the Latvian migration authority to prove that the child is not a citizen of another country.

According to the Latvian Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, 47 children were registered as non-citizens in 2016, 51 in 2017 and 33 in 2018.

There are currently 237,759 non-citizens, according to Latvian government figures.

“Automatic provision of citizenship to a small number of children will not be a threat to Latvia’s state or patriotism,” Kaimiņš said.

Abolishing the practice of giving non-citizen status to children is a symbolic step to end confrontation between the different groups in Latvian society, the proposal noted.

For the legislative draft to come into force, it needs to be approved by the Saeima in the third reading.

The story originally appeared on the Baltic News Network (BNN)

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