Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs highlights the role of the Latvian community in the history of Australian society

19.06.2015. 22:21

On 18 June in Canberra, continuing his official visit, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs met with the Speaker of the House of Representatives at the Parliament of Australia, Bronwyn Bishop, and members of the Latvian community.

In a conversation with Bronwyn Bishop, the Foreign Minister commended the excellent political relations between Latvia and Australia and expressed appreciation for the non-recognition of Latvia’s occupation and that Australia received Latvian refugees during World War II and also after the war.

For historical reasons, Australia hosts one of the world’s largest Latvian communities.  Many Latvians found refuge here after World War II and have contributed to the shaping of Australian society, Minister Rinkēvičs said. I am glad that we are working to make travel easier for the young people of our countries, providing them with opportunities to study and work both in Australia and Latvia, Edgars Rinkēvičs said and he made a commitment to finalise the working holiday agreement already this year, which will promote student mobility and experience sharing.

The Speaker of the Australian House of Commons emphasised that Latvia and the Baltic States are important for Australia due to their historical connection and that Australia remains a trustworthy ally.

In the context of international developments, Edgars Rinkēvičs thanked Bronwyn Bishop for Australia’s firm stance in support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and non-recognition of the illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea. The officials pledged to continue supporting Ukraine in its reforms so that the country moves forward with democratic development.

The Minister drew the Speaker’s attention to the alarming trend concerning refugees across the globe, including the Pacific. Besides refugees in the traditional sense, we can also speak about climate refugees, because people from many of the Pacific islands are under threat due to global warming and could be forced to leave their homes, Edgars Rinkēvičs noted.

The Latvian Foreign Minister also visited the Australian War Memorial and in commemoration of the fallen soldiers laid flowers on behalf of the Republic of Latvia at the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier.

In Canberra, the Minister also met with the members of the Latvian community and answered their questions on the accomplishments of the Latvian Presidency, the migration policy, cooperation amongst the Baltic States, the impact of Russian sanctions on Latvia’s economy, and other topics.

Background information:

Approximately 30, 000 Latvian refugees arrived in Australia in the wake of World War II, between 1948 and 1951.

According to the Population Register, 5,005 Latvian nationals reside in Australia on a permanent basis (as of 01.01.2015).  According to an estimate of the Honorary Consulates, there could be more than 20,000 Latvian nationals resident in Australia.

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