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.
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