Kastēns urges broader dual citizenship discussion

A work group studying how dual citizenship could be used to foster closer ties with the Latvian homeland should broaden its discussions to include World War II refugees and Soviet-era deportees, says Oskars Kastēns, special assignments minister for social integration affairs.

Kastēns announced Oct. 15 that he has sent a letter to Prime Minister Aigars Kalvītis asking that the work group’s duties be expanded. The letter also asks that membership in the work group be increased to include representatives from the World Federation of Free Latvians and the state Office of the Ombudsman.

The work group was formed after Kastēns’ office in August submitted a report to the Cabinet of Ministers outlining measures that could be taken to encourage repatriation to Latvia among the tens of thousands of citizens who in recent years have moved to Ireland, the United Kingdom and other Western European countries. One suggestion was that children born to Latvian parents abroad be allowed to hold dual citizenship, which under current law is not possible.

“However,” Kastēns said in his letter to Kalvītis, “I consider that it is necessary to deal not just with questions related to children born abroad, but also with refugees and deportees from the time of Latvia’s occupation, as well as with children who have been left without the care of parents.”

The World Federation of Free Latvians completely supports Kastēns’ recommendation, Jānis Andersons, head of the federation’s office in Rīga, told Latvians Online in an e-mail. Many political refugees and their descendants were unable to register for Latvian citizenship before July 1995, when the window closed on a Latvian government offer of dual citizenship for exiles.

A total of 30,793 Latvian citizens hold dual citizenship, according to the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs. Of those, 12,473 are in the United States, 4,283 in Australia, 3,788 in Canada, 2,759 in the United Kingdom and 1,615 in Germany.

In a Sept. 27 letter to the work group, the World Federation of Free Latvians urged consideration for political refugees and deportees—and their descendants—who left Latvia during the Nazi and Soviet occupations between June 17, 1940, and May 4, 1990. The first date is when the Soviet Union entered Latvia and the latter date is when the Latvian Supreme Soviet declared the restoration of the country’s independence.

The federation also argued for allowing dual citizenship for Latvian descendants in Brazil who never had Latvian citizenship because their forebears emigrated before Latvia declared independence in 1918.

The integration minister’s work group has until Dec. 10 to submit its recommendations to the Cabinet of Ministers.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

8 thoughts on “Kastēns urges broader dual citizenship discussion

  1. No question that the Latvian diaspora should be given another shot at Latvian citizenship. There are many of us out here, and many of us could contribute to Latvia’s culture, economy and politics, if given the chance that citizenship would provide. The upsides are many and the downsides are few (if any).

  2. I employ around 15 Latvian citizens in Latvia and pay over 30,000 lats each year in taxes. But I am not allowed citizenship even though my father was born in Latvia.

    In 2004 I was refused entry in to a study program in Riga largely because I did not have Latvian citizenship.

    I can not participate in most EU funded programs because I am not an EU citizen. As Director of a University department I had to withdraw from the program because the authorities did not want to pay an non-EU citizen. This resulted in me having to pay all the expenses from my own pocket.

    Buying land to set up a rural business funded by EU funds is impossible for Latvians without citizenship.

    EU citizens that do not have Latvian heritage have more rights in Latvia than us first generation exiles.

    Giving up my Australian citizenship is not an option as that would remove my links to Ambasadores, and government offices that assist me run the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Latvia. Not to mention I would lose my military pension from Australia if I gave up my Aussie citizenship.

    The EU is allowing 10 million immigrants in to Europe. This will again give more rights to non Latvians.

  3. The overall view is that Latvia has made it not possibel to emigrate and have the rights of a citizen even having ones parents born there. Many Of the older people who, when Latvia regained its freedom, wished to go back to Latvia but could not because of the American goverments nonpayment of Social Security benefits to former eastern block nations.It seems that anyone who wishes to move back to the homeland must be willing to forfeit all to do this. Just when Latvia could use an influx of m oney and people educated in business it seems the old communist ways are creeping in to mitigate this. Investors in Latvia are reluctant to do it because of the strange additude toward western capitol nomatter wether it be from Loyal Latvians, their offspring or compleat strangers.From an Economic Postion this has been foolhardy. From a social Position this has been horific. There are many people who waited 50 years to return to their homeland and could not.Many Children were raised to be loyal Latvians and now find they cannot be without losing greatly,economicaly. Things must change to favor Former Latvians and their Children. Old Communist Party thinking must be eradicated along with their sympathisers.

  4. The latest insult is the recent government ruling making all Latvian citizen males aged between 18 and 65 military reservists. No training and no obligation unless there is a disaster. So yet again I am left out in the cold. With many years of military experience in the Special Forces I would like to have the rights of my fellow Latvians and contribute. It seems Old Latvia wants to learn everything itself including economics and a professional defence force. Any concientious person with Latvian heritage and experience is not welcome.

  5. The exclusion of Latvian-speaking descendents like myself, from the opportunity to contribute to Latvia, while enjoying the benefits of dual citizenship, is short-sighted. As a university professor of technology and communication, there is much that I could contribute. Latvia desperately needs such knowledge! The only reason that I was born in Czechoslovakia instead of Latvia, was that my Latvian-born parents did not wish to fall under communist rule. I was unaware of the pre-1995 citizenship opportunity until it was too late. Please Latvia – get smart! (Canada)

  6. The people in the Latvian government are indeed short sighted. With Latvian born citizens leaving, you’d think they would be glad to do everything in their power to make descendents of Latvians welcome to contribute in any way they can to a country they love.

  7. I was born in Latvia in 1941 and my parents escaped to Germany, then England and now Australia. I, too did not know about the window of opportunity for dual citizenship and would like to see that reopened. Here’s hoping that common sense prevails.

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