Rights of Stigmatized Groups

II. Rights of Migrants

Public opinion surveys show that Lithuanian residents tend to perceive immigrants as having a negative impact on society and the state.[1] Many are prone to thinking that immigrants subsist on taxpayer money and are a possible cause of social unrest. About half of all respondents believe that immigrants do not contribute to the cultural life of the country. The majority of respondents express negative attitudes towards immigrants from Africa and the Middle East, particularly from Syria and Lebanon.[2]

The great paradox lies in the fact that these stereotypical attitudes are not based on any practical evidence – the majority of respondents indicated that they have had no personal interactions with any group of immigrants from third countries. Residents get most of their information and experiences concerning various immigrant groups from the media – TV, radio, newspapers and the internet (secondary sources of information).

There also have been some positive developments: in 2013 survey, almost half of the respondents agreed that the state should pay more attention to the integration of immigrants; in addition, the number of people thinking that immigrants were beneficial for the Lithuanian economy grew by more than a tenth.

Public opinion surveys show that Lithuanian residents tend to perceive immigrants as having a negative impact on society and the state. Many are prone to thinking that immigrants subsist on taxpayer money and are a possible cause of social unrest. About half of all respondents believe that immigrants do not contribute to the cultural life of the country.

The amendment to the Law on the Legal Status of Foreigners entered into force on 1 November 2014, tightening the requirements for temporary residence permits to stay in Lithuania: they set a fairly high bar in terms of required foreign investments, the length of time a company had to have been in operation, the number of jobs it brought and the company's equity capital.

The amended legislation provides that temporary residence permits on the basis of legitimate activity in Lithuania shall only be available to foreigners who have been carrying out the stated activity in Lithuania for the previous 6 months or more; at least three full-time job contracts at the company they had established, are concluded with either Lithuanian nationals or foreigners permanently residing in Lithuania; the company's equity value is not less than 100 thousand LTL (28,000 Euro), of which at least 50 thousand LTL (14,000 Euro) is comprised of that foreigner's investments or other assets; the foreigner is either the head of this company, a member of its collegial management or supervisory body who has authority to enter into agreements on its behalf, or a shareholder in a public company or a limited liability company that owns shares with a nominal value comprising at least 1/3 of the company's authorized capital.[3]

These strict new requirements and criteria make it exceptionally difficult for foreigners to come to and legally operate in Lithuania. Furthermore, foreigners who have already established themselves in Lithuania and have been acting in accordance with the old provisions now find it difficult to remain here and continue their work. Foreigners who fail to meet at least one of the above requirements (for example, they do not employ three Lithuanian nationals) are ineligible for a temporary residence permit on the basis of carrying out a legitimate activity. There is a real risk that these new regime will make it more difficult for small and medium-sized foreign investors to businesses in Lithuania and the resultant unattractive business environment will negatively affect the country's prospects for economic growth due to missed investments and taxes which will not be paid to the national budget.[4]

Once the amendment enters into force, owners of companies established in Lithuania that only have the minimum authorized capital will no longer be eligible for a temporary residence permits in Lithuania, while foreign owners of small and/or individual enterprises (sole proprietorships) will experience difficulties in trying to extend their temporary permits.[5]

The discriminatory provisions of this Law are also worthy of note. In an effort to strictly control migration flows, the drafters of the Law provided that foreigners must employ Lithuanian nationals or foreigners who permanently reside in Lithuania. However, it should be noted that most foreigners come to Lithuania for the purposes of family reunification, with family reunification being one basis for obtaining a temporary residence permit. These very same permits are also given to the vast majority of people who have been granted asylum in Lithuania. As such, they are all part of a group that is being discriminated against, since due to the prescribed employee legal status criteria it will not be beneficial for foreign entrepreneurs to employ them.[6]

Foreigners with permission to temporarily reside in Lithuania face restrictions when trying to obtain social benefits and health services. They are entitled to most services if they are lawfully employed in Lithuania and make social insurance contributions, but migrants are not always able to take advantage of the guarantees they are entitled to since a person has to reside in Lithuania in order to access many of the services.[7] However, when migrants have temporary permits, they must leave after the latter expire and are thus are physically precluded from using services they are entitled to. For example, unemployment benefits would not be paid to even those third country nationals who have been employed for the requisite amount of time, since after losing their job they would be forced to leave Lithuania and would be unable to make periodic visits to the Labour Exchange. Migrants are unable to receive support for pregnant women, work incapacity pensions, vocational rehabilitation allowances for the disabled, old age pensions, family benefits, unemployment benefits, minimum income guarantees or long-term care allowances.[8] 

Findings and Recommendations 

  • Following the tightening of the requirements for issuing temporary residence permits on 1 November 2014, it has become difficult for foreigners to come to Lithuania, to live here legally and to carry out legitimate activities. These new arrangements may result in an unattractive business environment in Lithuania, which is why it is necessary to assess the impact of these stricter regulations on the country's prospects for economic growth.
  • Foreigners who have permission to temporarily reside in Lithuania are unable to make use of important social guarantees, which is why it is necessary to improve social security laws in order to implement the equal opportunity principle and provide those migrants who have a permit to temporarily reside in Lithuania with all of the social security guarantees they are entitled to for paying their social insurance contributions.
  • Without any real reason and based on stereotypically negative information, Lithuanian residents tend to perceive immigrants as having a negative impact on society and the state. This is detrimental to society and also to the immigrants who are beneficial to the society. It is recommended that the Migrant Integration Strategy include complex measures promoting respect for diversity in society, as well as competently and systematically providing information on immigrants and their impact on Lithuania.

[1] Institute for Ethnic Studies of the Lithuanian Social Research Centre , results of the Study of Societal Attitudes, 2013, http://www.ces.lt/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Visuomen%C4%97s-nuostatos-2013.pdf

[2] Institute for Ethnic Studies of the Lithuanian Social Research Centre , results of the Study of Societal Attitudes, 2013, http://www.ces.lt/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Visuomen%C4%97s-nuostatos-2013.pdf

[3] Law Repealing Articles 2, 4, 19, 21, 26, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 40, 43, 44, 441, 45, 46, 492, 50, 51, 57, 58, 62, 64, 71, 94, 101, 104, 128, 141, 1411 of Law No. IX-2206 on the Legal Status of Foreigners, 26 June 2014, No. XII-965, https://www.e-tar.lt/portal/legalAct.html?documentId=62104290083111e4b836947d492f2f50

[4] 12 December 2014 interview with Karolis Žibas, research fellow at the Institute for Ethnic Studies of the Lithuanian Social Research Centre; 15 December 2014 interview with Ihab Zaher, employee at the Consultation and Information Centre PLUS;

[5] Svetlana Naumčik, "Immigration reform scares off foreign investors, but pleases Lithuanian employers", delfi.lt, 26 August 2014, http://www.delfi.lt/verslas/verslas/s-naumcik-imigracijos-reforma-atbaido-uzsienio-investuotojus-taciau-dziugina-lietuvos-darbdavius.d?id=65626902#ixzz3ObD23Tmm

[6] 15 December 2014 interview with Ihab Zaher, employee at the Consultation and Information Centre PLUS

[7] International Organization for Migration, "European Migration Network. Social and health care services for migrants: policies and practices in Lithuania", 2013, http://www.mipas.lt/lt/tyrimai/308/socialines-ir-sveikatos-prieziuros-paslaugos-migrantams-politika-ir-praktika-lietuvoje

[8] International Organization for Migration, "European Migration Network. Social and health care services for migrants: policies and practices in Lithuania", 2013, http://www.mipas.lt/lt/tyrimai/308/socialines-ir-sveikatos-prieziuros-paslaugos-migrantams-politika-ir-praktika-lietuvoje