Are there Estonians living in Latvia?

Country Profiles Migration: Data - History - Politics

Inta Mierina

Dr. Inta Mierina is Director of the Center for Diaspora and Migration Research at the University of Latvia and Senior Researcher at the Institute for Philosophy and Sociology.
The author's work on this article was supported by the Latvian National Research Program "Towards sustainable development and inclusive society in Latvia: response to demographic and migration challenges (DemoMig)" (project no. VPP-IZM-2018 / 1-0015).

Latvia has seen periods of immigration and emigration in its history. In recent years, emigration has dominated. At the same time, negative attitudes towards immigration are widespread among the population.

Protest against the admission of refugees to Riga in 2015. Negative attitudes towards immigration are widespread in Latvia. (& copy dpa)

Historical phases of immigration to and emigration from Latvia

During the past century, Latvia has seen numerous waves of immigration and emigration. [1] To the Turn from the 19th to the 20th centuryWhen Latvia was part of the Russian Empire, the growth of Latvian cities was the main driver of immigration. In addition to people who immigrated for economic reasons, significant numbers of Jewish refugees from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Poland also came to Latvia because they were exposed to increasing anti-Semitism and pogroms in their regions of origin. At the same time, Latvians (especially farmers) left Latvian territory in considerable numbers. Between 1897 and 1913 the Latvian diaspora grew to 220,000 people, 45,000 of whom lived in the western world (mainly in the USA) - including almost 8,000 political refugees and deportees after the Latvian Revolution of 1905. Nevertheless, the migration balance (i.e. the difference between immigration and emigration) was clearly positive during this period.

Figure 1: Net migration and net migration rate by time period ( Graphic for download) License: cc by-nc-nd / 3.0 / de /
Latvia experienced its greatest population losses during Russian Civil War and World War I. Around one million Latvian residents came to foreign territory (primarily to Russia) as refugees, displaced persons, resettlers or after being drafted into the military. Latvia lost 37 percent of its population within five years (Fig. 1). About half of them died outside Latvia, while others settled in Soviet Russia, Estonia, Lithuania and Germany. Less than a third of the emigrants returned after the war. [2]

In the first decade after the establishment of the Latvian state In 1918 around 300,000 people (most of them between 1919-1921) returned to Latvia. At the same time, over 10,000 Latvians migrated to Soviet Russia or were expelled from Latvia for "subversive activities". At the same time, around 15,000 people fleeing the Soviet regime immigrated to Latvia. [3] In the later years of the Latvian state, which has been independent since 1918, emigration was low because there was little motivation to emigrate due to land reform and good economic conditions. Nevertheless, for various reasons, around 5,000 people migrated to the USA, 2,700 to Brazil and 4,500 to Palestine.

The decade between 1939 and 1949 is described in Latvia as the "time of displaced persons and refugees". [4] 51,000 people of German origin set out for Germany in 1939/40 as part of a "return" ["home to the Reich policy"] propagated by the Hitler government. They were followed in a second wave in the winter of 1941 during the so-called "post-resettlement" after Latvia had been incorporated into the USSR, another 10,500 Latvian Germans. 15,424 residents of Latvia (0.8 percent of the population) were deported by the Soviet regime on June 14, 1941; around 40 percent of them later died in camps or in exile. In the summer of 1941, around 53,000 people from Latvia fled to other regions of the USSR for fear of the threatened occupation by the National Socialists. Overall, Latvia lost around 6.6 percent of its population between 1939 and 1941 through repatriation, deportation and flight. Another 242,000 people (13.4 percent of the population) were lost to Latvian territory between 1942 and 1945 through various types of forced migration. This group included mainly drafted soldiers of the Wehrmacht or the Red Army / Soviet Army and those who fled the Soviet regime. [5] Most of these refugees and some of the former Wehrmacht members came to the so-called DP camps (Displaced Person Camps), but in 1947 after these camps were closed they migrated to countries that were ready to receive them - mainly to the USA (45,000), Australia and Canada (each 20,000), the United Kingdom (17,000), Germany (15,000) and other countries. This marked the beginning of the post-war Latvian diaspora.

Latvia experienced the greatest wave of immigration in the decade after new occupation by the Soviet Union, especially in the years 1946-1948. Initially, there was a massive return of refugees and military personnel as well as a (partly centrally controlled) influx of migrants from other parts of the Soviet Union. As a result, the population of Latvia grew by more than 323,000 people, or 21 percent, within three years. In the years 1949/50, the return and immigration continued, but their effect was partially reversed by the most important violent deportation in Latvian history: from March 25 to 28, 1949 42,125 people (2.2 Percent of the population) were deported to Siberia or the Far East of the USSR. Around 80 percent of those displaced returned to Latvia, albeit only years later (especially in 1956/57). [6]

Under the Soviet rule took place from 1951 to 1990 further extensive immigration from other parts of the Soviet Union took place, mainly due to decisions by the central administration on the allocation of resources - such as B. Labor - and because of the higher standard of living in Latvia compared to other Soviet republics. As a result, the percentage of ethnic Latvians in the Latvian population fell to 52 percent by 1989. With a few exceptions, emigration from Latvia was next to impossible under the Soviet regime.

The last decade of the 20th century was marked by a considerable emigration of the Russian-speaking population from Latvia, which has been independent since 1991, to Russia and other CIS countries (Commonwealth of Independent States). The migratory movements were triggered by drastic changes in the political system, the dominant historical narrative (which portrayed Russians in Latvia as relics or even active participants in the Soviet occupation), the language-political environment, the structure of labor demand and, for many people, the loss of citizenship. [ 8th] The 1990s also marked the beginning of emigration to the West, when migrants resorted to the support of Latvian post-war refugees or to less formal social networks of Russian-speaking emigrants from the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, the post-Soviet Latvian diaspores in the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries did not number more than 20,000 people at the end of the 20th century. It is also noteworthy that some Latvian post-war refugees took the opportunity to return to independent Latvia. [9]

Recent phases of emigration from Latvia

The history of emigration from Latvia in the years 2000-2016 can be divided into four phases: (1) the period before Latvia joined the European Union (2000-2003), (2) the phase characterized by economic growth after accession (2004 -2008), (3) the years of the economic crisis (2009/10) and (4) the period following the crisis (2011-2016). [10] The Emigration in the pre-accession period (2000-2003) was characterized by a significant positive selectivity with regard to the human capital of the emigrants - many emigrants had higher qualifications than the population remaining in Latvia -, overrepresentation of Russian speakers and geographical diversification. Since emigration was associated with difficulties (visa regulations, costs, etc.), the net emigration rate of Latvian nationals was at a low level despite high incentives (see table).

Due to the free movement of workers within the EU and the high and growing demand for labor from migrants in the EU-15 [11], the monetary and non-monetary costs of migration have decreased significantly. So it came about in the period after Latvia joined the EU (2004-2008) to an increase in the emigration rate, which can mainly be attributed to pull factors. Nevertheless, according to the data from the Latvian Statistical Office (in the English-language literature cited: Central Statistical Bureau, CSB), there was no massive increase in the emigration rate immediately after joining the EU in 2004. The migration movements in the period after accession were mostly short-term and / or cyclical.

Latvia was one of the European countries hardest hit by the Great Recession. As a result of this economic downturn, the emigration rate also rose sharply. In the years of Great Recession (2009/10) Both economic and non-economic push factors gained in importance. Numerous Latvian families fell into poverty at that time. Since they lost hope of an improvement in the situation in their own country, many decided to leave the country. [12] During the crisis years, the annual net emigration rate from Latvia more than doubled. Between 2008 and 2011, the number of Latvian citizens in the 15 to 64 age group who had moved to another EU member state in the past three years increased by 47 percent. [13] The main driving forces behind emigration were economic factors - the desire for an adequate salary, an improvement in one's own quality of life and a supposedly middle-class lifestyle. [14] What was worrying about this crisis-related wave of emigration was the growing proportion of young people and the shift in focus towards the emigration of entire families who were aiming for permanent employment and permanent residence abroad. Due to the negative net migration in the years 2009-2013, Latvia lost 9.1 percent of its population. [15]

In the years following the economic crisis Although the intensity of emigration has decreased, the emigration rate is still significantly higher than before the crisis and the migration balance remains negative. Working abroad has become an integral part of the Latvian national identity and emigration is now considered "the new normal". [16] Minorities and university graduates are still overrepresented among emigrants. The emigration potential is permanently high and only a small part of the emigrants return to Latvia or plan to return. [17]

Characteristics of the current immigrant ethnic minority population in Latvia

Figure 2: Immigration and emigration rates to the Baltic States ( Graphic for download) License: cc by-nc-nd / 3.0 / de /
The immigration rate in Latvia is far lower than the average for the OECD countries and, at 0.5 percent of the population annually, also lower than in the neighboring countries of Estonia and Lithuania (see Fig. 2). In 2018, 10,909 people immigrated to Latvia. [18]

The statistical information on the immigrants' country of origin is not very meaningful. In 2018, 41 percent of the immigrants entering Latvia had previously resided in another EU member state (37 percent of them in the EU-15 states), two percent in countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), 37 percent in one CIS country and 20 percent in another country. [19] However, around half (48.2 percent) of all immigrants were actually Latvian citizens. 7.5 percent were citizens of other EU countries and 44.1 percent were citizens of non-EU countries. [20] This means that Latvians who return to their country of origin make up a significant proportion of all immigrants. Their return migration is not only of pragmatic use, but also emotionally motivated. [21]

A total of 12.7 of the Latvian population are foreign nationals and of these, the overwhelming majority (218,000 of 246,000) are citizens from countries that do not belong to the EU. [22] The majority of immigrants without Latvian citizenship come from CIS countries, especially Russia (50 percent of the foreign-born population), but also from Ukraine and Belarus. The motives for their immigration to Latvia are on the one hand the widespread use of the Russian language in various sectors of the Latvian economy and on the other hand the higher wages compared to their home countries. [23]

Figure 3: Motives for immigration to the Baltic states of migrants of the first generation ( Graphic for download) License: cc by-nc-nd / 3.0 / de /
According to a survey carried out by the Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat) in 2014, the vast majority of immigrants immigrate to Latvia for family reasons (see Fig. 3). [24] They also include the spouses of returnees. Migrant workers currently make up only a small proportion of all immigrants.

Statistical data on initial residence permits show that both the number of residence permits issued to labor migrants and the number of residence permits issued to international students are low (around 2,000 per year each) but are slowly increasing. Until 2014, most residence permits were issued to people who wanted to invest in real estate or businesses in Latvia (around 5,000 permits in 2014); however, this situation is currently changing due to changes in the law. The total number of first residence permits issued in 2016 was around 6,500.

Latvia has only taken in a small number of refugees. From 1998 to 2018, a total of 180 people were granted refugee status and 538 people were granted subsidiary protection status. [25] In 2018, 176 people applied for international protection in Latvia. Refugee status was granted in 23 cases and another protection status in 24 cases. Seven people were accepted under the EU resettlement program. The main countries of origin of the asylum seekers were Russia, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Egypt and Vietnam.

For historical reasons, the ethnic composition of the Latvian population is very diverse: 62 percent of the population consider themselves Latvians, 25 percent are ethnic Russians, two to three percent Belarusians, Ukrainians or Poles. -Inside. There are also members of smaller ethnic minorities. [26]

The immigration, integration and naturalization policy of Latvia

Negative attitudes towards immigrants influenced the development of immigration, integration and naturalization policies in Latvia. The vast majority of Latvians do not appreciate the contribution that immigrants make to the country's economic growth and do not want to make them feel welcome. [27] According to data from the Eurobarometer, 49 percent of those surveyed would feel uncomfortable with an immigrant as a neighbor, only 54 percent agree with the statement that promoting immigration is a necessary investment for the country in the long term. Overall, a large majority of the population perceives the immigration of nationals from non-EU countries as negative or very negative. A sharp increase in negative attitudes was observed during the migration crisis of 2015. Attitudes towards immigrants have not improved significantly since then.

While neighboring Estonia is making targeted efforts to be attractive to foreign workers by adapting legal regulations and taking measures to increase Estonia's attractiveness as a target country, [28] in Latvia, against the background of the negative attitudes in the population, it is gaining the knowledge that that immigration is important to economic growth is only slowly gaining ground. Latvia has so far taken an approach aimed at restricting and managing immigration. Immigration policy is selective and geared towards protecting the domestic labor market. [29] There is a clear preference for making it easier for Latvians living abroad to return.Nonetheless, the Latvian Strategy for Sustainable Development up to 2030 contains the note that demographic changes and changes in the labor market not only require more targeted support for the return of emigrated Latvians, but also make strategies for targeted labor migration necessary. Currently, however, the potential attractiveness of Latvia to foreign workers is diminished by prejudice and xenophobia combined with restrictive immigration and citizenship policies and an insufficient understanding of non-discriminatory practice and intercultural communication in the workplace. Government agencies have drawn up a list of jobs that suffer from labor shortages and for which workers from third countries can be recruited. The list is constantly updated and critically scrutinized by both employers and trade unions. The focus is on attracting qualified workers. The recruited workers must earn at least a salary that corresponds to the average Latvian gross wage in the year before their immigration. Nevertheless, the attractiveness of Latvia as a destination country for migrants suffers not only from comparatively low wages, but also from an inefficient integration policy.

According to data from the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) from 2015, which measures the success of integration policies in different countries, Latvia scores poorly along with other Central and Eastern European countries. Latvia ranks 37th in a list of 38 European and non-European countries. The greatest challenges arise in connection with permanent residence, family reunification and labor market mobility. Problems that stand in the way of the integration of third-country nationals in Latvia include: insufficient financial support for asylum seekers and refugees for too short a period (less than a year), insufficient access to language courses, discrimination (in particular job search and employment) as well as an insufficient understanding of the specific needs of certain immigrant groups. The necessity of integration into the labor market is particularly emphasized against the background that 60 percent of third-country nationals in Latvia are not gainfully employed and that third-country nationals in gainful employment receive 67 percent less than the average wage. [30] Overall, with a view to promoting labor market integration and general social integration of migrants, it must be taken into account that integration is a two-way process of mutual adaptation that demands efforts from both the immigrant and the host society. [31]

Interestingly, Latvian returnees also mention a number of difficulties on their return to Latvia, such as B. Problems finding a job (40 percent), getting used to a different work culture (31 percent), a lack of clarity about tax regulations (30 percent), health care (24 percent) and difficulties in getting into a society with a integrate another mentality (26 percent). Only 15 percent state that their reintegration went smoothly. [32]

The Latvian Diaspora

Latvia is one of the countries in Europe with the highest net emigration rates. While exact data are lacking, it is estimated that Latvia has lost more than 260,000 people (i.e. at least 13 percent of its population) to emigration since 2000. [33] The Latvian diaspora comprises an estimated 370,000 people. [34] People who emigrate from Latvia are, on average, much younger and better educated than people who stay in Latvia. [35] Russian speakers are overrepresented among emigrants and families with children or those who wish to have children are also more likely to emigrate. [36]

Figure 4: Emigration of Latvian nationals to main OECD destination countries 2000-2016 ( Graphic for download) License: cc by-nc-nd / 3.0 / de /
Over the years, the main destination countries and their relative share in emigration have changed. This is related to institutional and economic developments. [37] Overall, the data from the Latvian statistical office show that the vast majority of emigrants have moved to Western European countries that offer significantly higher living standards and wages: 84 percent of long-term emigrants have emigrated to other EU countries (77 percent of them to the EU 15), seven percent in CIS countries, seven percent in EFTA countries and three percent in other countries. [38] The main destination countries for Latvian migrants are the United Kingdom, Ireland and Germany. Emigration to the EFTA countries has increased (see Fig. 4), while emigration to the CIS countries is declining.

According to current calculations, around one third of Latvian nationals who have emigrated live in the United Kingdom, ten percent in Germany, eight percent in Ireland and 13 percent in the USA (most of them emigrated before 1991).

In order to counter the feared negative effects of emigration on the social security systems in an aging society and to strengthen the economic potential and competitiveness of the country's economy, [40] Latvia has been pursuing a conscious diaspora policy since 2013. Its aim is to use the knowledge potential of the diaspora and to facilitate return migration. [41] In recent years, awareness of the potential of the diaspora has increased and cooperation with it has become more intensive, comprehensive and diverse. In 2019, a Diaspora law came into force with several objectives: to strengthen the Latvian identity of the diaspora; to give the diaspora the opportunity to establish, maintain and consolidate their ties to Latvia unhindered; to promote the preservation of the Latvian language and culture in the diaspora; and to develop and implement a policy of systematic and permanent support for the diaspora, which also includes ensuring favorable conditions for return migration. After the law came into force, a so-called Diaspora Advisory Council was founded in 2019, made up of representatives of diaspora organizations as well as various government bodies and other institutions dealing with diaspora issues (Ministry of Education and Science, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Culture, etc.). In this context, the signing of a cooperation agreement between the Latvian Foreign Ministry and the World Federation of Free Latvians (PBLA) in 2011 is worth mentioning. As part of the diaspora policy, various non-institutional events are organized to promote the exchange of ideas and strengthen ties with the diaspora. One example of this are events of the World Economic and Innovation Forum of Latvians (PLEIF). Representatives of state institutions regularly take part in meetings of diaspora organizations as well as in meetings to establish professional contacts.

Translation into German: Textworks Translations.


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