On 16 March 2019 in London, at the Embassy of Latvia in the United Kingdom, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Edgars Rinkēvičs, met with members of the Latvian community to share views on Latvia’s diaspora policy, including the recently adopted Diaspora Law and its practical implementation, as well as topics of current importance for the diaspora in relation to the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.
“The United Kingdom is now home to the largest Latvian diaspora, with more than 100 000 people from Latvia living, working or studying in that country. I would like to thank you – the representatives of the relatively older generation of exiles – for your faith in the rebirth of Latvia’s independence and your support for the renewal of Latvia. I would like to thank the newest members of the community, who, having recently arrived in Britain due to various reasons, keep alive their links with Latvia and make efforts to contribute to the development of their native country. Latvia needs people who, regardless of their ethnic or national origin, maintain and build the links with Latvia. The diaspora policy of the past decade has rapidly evolved due to the major emigration wave, resulting in the adoption of the Diaspora Law at the end of last year. We are prepared to work so that people you represent do not lose their connection with Latvia,” said Edgars Rinkēvičs.
The Minister informed the audience that the Diaspora Law has come into force as from January 2019, and currently downstream legislation is being drafted and introduced. The implementation of the Diaspora Law has been defined as one of the new government’s priorities.
The Minister also confirmed that the current initiatives in the field of culture and education would be taken forward to ensure a systematic and long-term support for the selfless and committed work on a daily basis by teachers – volunteers at the diaspora schools and the leaders of diaspora organisations and amateur art groups.
“Every member of the Latvian community in the United Kingdom is creating the image of Latvia. Therefore, you can be active and visible for a good reason. Through your engagement, the attention of the British authorities must be drawn to current challenges faced by Latvia and other Baltic States, and the need to address those issues together with the United Kingdom,” the Foreign Minister noted.
“Feedback is highly important in the diaspora policy. Therefore, your ability of self-organisation and voicing your opinion, signalling your needs both in the United Kingdom and Latvia is essential. The rapid economic growth over the recent years has brought to the fore the issue of the availability of workforce and consequently, that of return migration. Providing information to the diaspora on the possibilities of working and living in Latvia is a major task at this point in time, especially in view of the Brexit process under way. For instance, a remigration pilot project was successfully launched already last year, under which five remigration advisors are providing individual advice on the matters of employment, children’s education and others,” said Edgars Rinkēvičs.
The Latvian Foreign Minister also drew the audience’s attention to the United Kingdom being among the countries with one of the largest communities of Latvian scientists and researchers. Recent studies demonstrate that cooperation with the science diaspora holds a considerable potential, and concrete policy measures are currently being developed. Being aware of the rapid assimilation processes affecting the diaspora, children in particular, state budget allocations towards diaspora policy initiatives, especially in education and culture, have considerably increased over the recent years. On the whole, the budget of EUR 3.4 million has been envisaged for the diaspora initiatives.
As of 11 March 2019, according to the data of the Population Register, 74,400 Latvian citizens and 474 non-citizens have indicated the United Kingdom as their place of residence. Temporary residence in Latvia has been registered by 1085 British nationals, but permanent residence – by 1072 persons holding Latvian and UK citizenship, while 2433 persons holding dual citizenship have indicated the United Kingdom as their permanent place of residence.
In 2018, the Consular Section of the Embassy of Latvia in the United Kingdom received 9529 applications for passports and ID cards. 1815 children have been registered as Latvian citizens with the help of the Embassy.
In 2018, the Embassy of Latvia in the UK worked on 72 cases involving care and guardianship over 119 children. Most of the cases are related to serious concerns of British social services about children’s security and welfare in situations when parents are unable to ensure conditions required for their healthy physical and spiritual development. The Consular Section of the Embassy is involved in the cases of child care and guardianship pursuant to the Interinstitutional Agreement on the protection of the rights of the children of Latvian nationals abroad signed on 14 December 2017 by the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Welfare, the State Inspectorate for the Protection of Children’s Rights, the Ombudsman’s Office and the Association of the Employees of Orphans’ Courts.
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