Riga, Latvia, Apr 29 (EFE).- The Latvian government is prepared to spend just over 116 million euros ($122m) to house, feed and support 25,600 Ukrainian refugees who have registered in Latvia, government ministers said Friday.
The funding, agreed at an extraordinary government meeting, will include food packages and will provide free public transport, free admission to state museums and Latvian language courses.
The funds will be destined for Ukrainian refugees registered in Latvia, and to Latvians providing housing to refugees. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice Janis Bordans said that the government would pay up to 400 euro to cover rent and utilities to those who put up Ukrainian refugees in their homes.
Minister of Interior Marija Golubeva said that the decision to pay up to 400 euro per month to Latvian households housing refugees was aimed at finding a less costly way to shelter Ukrainians than placing them in hotels and guest houses.
Asked whether Latvia had an accurate count of refugees in its territory, Golubeva told EFE that unlike Estonia, Latvia didn’t count Ukrainians at the border, but let them register their presence by themselves.
“This gets them registered for services in a shorter time than in Estonia,” she said, adding that Latvian border guards and police did make spot checks and monitored activities at the border to ensure that refugees were not pulled into human trafficking schemes.
While there were more than 25 000 registered Ukrainian refugees, the actual number present in Latvia was probably higher, but those who hadn’t registered “must be considered in transit” to another country, Golubeva said.
More than 100,000 refugees from Ukraine have arrived in the three Baltic countries of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, with local media saying the arrivals have strained social services, and raised questions of how to deal with the likelihood that many may have to stay for the foreseeable future.
Noting that most refugee benefits will expire after 90 days, Golubeva said that the government would decide by the middle of May on how to deal with persons who will face expiration of support and services. EFE