The growing inflow of foreigners coming to Lithuania for work is a threat to Lithuania’s security, Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite says, adding that newcomers are being used as a cover by the intelligence services of hostile countries.
“The growing inflow is a threat because it is becoming obvious that it is more difficult to ensure control and integration processes. The State Security Department has also pointed out that a worrying trend has recently emerged where immigrants are becoming a cover for the intelligence services of hostile countries,” the minister told a press conference on Monday.
Some 50,000 foreigners have come to work in Lithuania this yea, she said, adding that these are mainly citizens of Belarus, Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. The number of foreigners coming from Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan is also increasing.
“This year, 16,000 decisions have been made to ban the entry of foreign citizens to Lithuania due to threats to national security,” the interior minister said. For the same reason, she added, 411 Belarusian citizens have had their residence permits revoked and 562 have been refused temporary residence permits.
“This year, the State Border Guard Service has refused to allow 527 Russian citizens and 600 Belarusian citizens to enter Lithuania due to threats to national security. This shows that our prior decisions and restrictive measures are really bearing fruit,” Bilotaite said.
MPs Laurynas Kasciunas and Paulius Saudargas have drafted amendments to the Law on the Legal Status of Aliens, which would allow a foreigner who has lived in Lithuania for five years and wishes to extend their temporary residence permit to be issued such a document only if they present documents to prove their proficiency in the state Lithuanian language.
According to the lawmakers, the practice shows that people tend to renew their temporary residence permit for an indefinite period of time and are therefore not subject to the requirements to have sufficient command of the Lithuanian language and have basic knowledge of the Lithuanian Constitution when applying for a permanent residence permit. This, they argue, creates a risk of the formation of foreign diasporas.
The two lawmakers also propose increasing employers’ responsibility when employing foreigners. The amendments seek to establish that a temporary residence permit issued on the basis of employment shall be revoked or a new one denied if the employer has had a period of non-insurability for more than 90 days in the previous 180 days for any of the foreigners employed.
In addition, the amendments would provide that a foreigner in Lithuania would be able to change their employer no earlier than six months after the date of obtaining a temporary residence permit.
Under the current regulations, employers commit to employing a foreigner for six months, but in practice, after a month or so, foreigners often asked the Migration Department to allow them to change employers.
Kasciunas and Saudargas are also proposing limiting the number of temporary residence permits issued to persons of Lithuanian origin or to foreigners entitled to restore Lithuanian citizenship. According to the bill, a temporary permit would be issued to them only once. After living in Lithuania for five years, they would have to learn the Lithuanian language, pass the exam on the basic knowledge of the Constitution and could obtain a permanent residence permit.
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