Lithuania’s Interior Ministry has submitted law amendments, which would give refugees the right to work if they were in the country for 12 months but had not yet received a decision on their asylum claim.
"First of all, the amendments are aimed at separating asylum seekers from illegal migrants, ie foreigners who have not been granted or have not asked for asylum,” the ministry said in a statement. "Decisions on illegal migrants are adopted by the State Border Guard Service (VSAT) and those on asylum seekers are made by the Migration Department."
Currently, the Law on Foreigner’s Legal Status allows detentions of irregular migrants for up to six months.
“After six months, each case will be assessed individually, depending on a migrant’s status," Bilotaitė told reporters on Wednesday. The detention may then be extended for up to 18 months.
If the law amendments are approved by the government and the parliament, refugees would receive registration documents after their six-month detention. Once they have been registered in the country's migration system MIGRIS for 12 months, their legal status would give them the right to work while they wait for the outcome of their asylum claims.
If a migrant is not granted asylum or has appealed against the decision, and is not deemed a threat by the Migration Department or the border guards, they would no longer be detained.
The law amendments would also mean that appeals against deportation, ban from the country, or returns would no longer be looked at by two courts, but by the Migration Department, the border guards, or a single court. According to the ministry, this would cut down the processing time from 148 to 81 days.
According to the interior minister, the amendments represent a compromise between Lithuania’s international commitments and national security.
“We must combine two very important aspects. We must protect human rights and our international commitments, at the same time preventing Lithuania from becoming a [transit country for] irregular migrants. This project is a compromise,” Bilotaitė said.