Since its independence in the early 1990s, Lithuania has increasingly become an emigration country for economic migrants and a destination country for irregular migrants from the east, mainly from neighboring countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Having become a member of the Schengen zone with external borders (with the Russian Federation and Belarus), Lithuania has faced a number of important issues. Among them are the facilitated transit of Russian citizens from the Russian mainland to Kaliningrad Oblast via Lithuania, emigration of Lithuanian nationals to Western Europe and trafficking in human beings. Currently, labour migration to and from Lithuania, return migration of Lithuanian citizens and integration of third country nationals take priority among migration management issues.
Return Assistance to Migrants and Governments
One of the main functions of IOM is to assist irregular migrants, unsuccessful asylum seekers and persons enjoying protection in voluntary return to their countries of origin. Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR) is considered a more humane and dignified way of return as opposed to forced return. IOM activities consist of the following main components:
- Return information and counseling. Informational activities are performed in reception centres, integration day centres, and the IOM office. State border guard service’s officers, specialists at migration services, municipalities and other related institutions, working with migrants and involved in the return process are informed about possibilities of AVR. Posters, leaflets, information on the IOM Vilnius website and individual consultations are provided by the IOM Vilnius staff to the target group and practitioners involved.
- IOM takes care of all logistical arrangements (travel arrangements, transit and reception assistance and excess baggage allowance) regarding a migrant’s return to his/her country of origin. IOM provides support toward in-land transportation to the final destination, if needed. IOM also assists in receiving necessary travel documents and visas.
- All migrants who are returning voluntarily with IOM assistance are provided withreinstallation allowances to cover their immediate needs once they are back home.
- Special voluntary return assistance to vulnerable persons.
- Reintegration assistance in countries of origin aimed at ensuring the sustainability of returns. Reintegration assistance is always tailored to individual needs, provided in kind and targeted towards income-generating activities.
- Cooperation and partnerships are vital for the successful implementation and constant improvement of the AVRR programme. As a result, conferences and meetings are regularly organized in order to facilitate the sharing of experiences and exchange of best practices among professionals working in the field of AVRR.
- Capacity building of relevant stakeholders (i.e., State Border Guard Service, Migration services personnel, etc.). Trainings and seminars are organized to improve effectiveness and efficiency of specialists providing return assistance and those responsible for migration policy-making.
Although accession to the Schengen zone has made Lithuania an attractive transit country, it still remains one of the main countries of origin for human trafficking. While no active projects are run at the moment, IOM Vilnius maintains its role in providing return assistance to trafficked victims and keeps close partnerships with local assistance-providing NGOs. It also constantly provides information to the media to keep society informed.
- Return Home IV
- Assisted Voluntary Return for Vulnerable Persons IV
- Reintegration: A Future in Homeland
- Practitioners' Capacity Building III
IOM Vilnius in cooperation with Institution of the Ombudsman for Children Rights is implementing the project “Assistance to Children and Their Families: Building Specialists’ Intercultural Competence”, which is under the European Fund for the Integration of non-EU immigrants 2011 Annual Programme and is expected to cover the period from February 2012 to June 2013. The overall objective of the project is building intercultural capacities of the specialists working with third country nationals, the families where at least one parent is a third country national and children from such families, and on their integration measures. Project activities include creating a special training programme on work with third country nationals and mixed families and their children, undergoing crises or divorces; organizing round tables to discuss the training programme and organizational issues of the workshops with partners and specialists; 10 two-day workshops for the specialists that will comprise theoretical informational lectures prepared on the basis of the training programme and practical sessions; development and publication of a special guidebook on consultations for mixed families and children from immigrant families; publicizing project activities and results on the websites of the IOM Vilnius office and partner organizations and in regional press; and organizing a final conference.
European Migration Network
The European Migration Network (EMN) is a network of migration specialists from the European Commission, 26 EU Member States and Norway. It aims to collect, analyze and share up-to-date information in the areas of migration and asylum. The IOM Office in Vilnius represents the Government of Lithuania in the EMN and coordinates EMN activities in Lithuania.
In 2011, IOM Vilnius, in cooperation with the EMN and the Lithuanian Government, has launched the website, Migration in Numbers in Lithuania. The website is a source of main official statistical information on migration and asylum. It not only provides data but also explains migration statistics in a user-friendly manner with maps and graphs.
Improving the Decision-Making Process in Asylum Cases: Appeal Level
IOM Vilnius is implementing the project “Improving Decision Making Process in Asylum Cases: Appeal Level” under the European Refugee Fund (ERF), which is a continuation of the project “Asylum System in Lithuania: Legal and Practical Evaluation of Effectiveness” implemented in 2011. The goal of this project is to promote improvements in the decision-making process in asylum cases by analyzing shortcomings of first instance decisions as they are identified by appeal institutions. The main activities of the project include: a sociological research during which 20 asylum seekers are expected to be thoroughly interviewed; an analysis of decisions made by appeal authorities (50 decisions are expected to be analyzed); a study visit to Sweden to familiarize with the project implemented by Swedish experts on asylum decisions; round table seminars for experts during which problematic aspects will be discussed and preliminary findings of the project will be introduced; a concluding study where main shortcomings in asylum decisions of first instance authority will be identified; and a final conference to present project results.
Successful implementation of this project should lead to increased quality of asylum procedures in Lithuania. It is expected that a higher level of cooperation between first instances and appeal authorities will be built which should result in a decreased amount of overruled decisions in appeals.
IOM created the Independent Network of Labour Migration and Integration Experts (LINET) in 2009 to provide the DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities of the European Commission with expert analysis and advice on economic migration and labour market integration of third country nationals. The network unites experts from 27 Member States of the European Union, Croatia, Norway and Turkey, and aims to support the European Commission in evidence-based decision-making and mainstreaming issues of labour market integration of migrants in achieving Europe 2020 goals.
- European Migration Network
- Improving Decision-Making Process in Asylum Cases: Appeal Level
- Independent Network of Labour Migration and Integration Experts
Main text: August 2012
Facts and figures: April 2012