Mom and I loved Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania on our Royal Caribbean cruise last summer. It seems that these UNESCO World Heritage destinations are not appealing to everyone: “Refugees frustrated and trapped in chilly Baltic states” (BBC):
Mekharena, an Eritrean, came to Latvia from Italy a year ago. Reaching Europe was an odyssey – he came via Uganda, Ethiopia, Israel and Egypt. … He was not allowed to choose the destination himself, and was not happy about it. “There are lots of Eritreans everywhere in Europe. They talk to one another. We all know that in Germany they give you an apartment and €400 (£350; $450) pocket money. But in Latvia they don’t give us anything – just €139 a month,” he told BBC Russian.
An EU solidarity plan, agreed in 2015, envisaged relocating 160,000 Syrian and Eritrean refugees throughout the EU, from overcrowded camps in Greece and Italy. Only a fraction have left the camps so far.
Refugees are moving on from all three Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Of 349 asylum seekers taken in by Lithuania, 248 left as soon as they had received official refugee status … Benefits for refugees in Lithuania vary from €102 to €204 a month.
In Estonia the situation is similar: of the 136 who arrived on the EU programme, 79 have moved elsewhere in Europe. Refugees in Estonia receive €130 a month.
The BBC doesn’t bother to cover this, but I don’t think that these countries are disfavoring refugees compared to their own citizens. The Eritrean who was disappointed at not getting an apartment in addition to cash may not have gotten an apartment if he had been a low-income citizen (see Russian welfare: all cash; I think it is the same in the Baltics). In all three Baltic countries I learned that having sex with the richest person in the country would yield only about 200 euros per month in child support (if they’d come to Boston for a week, for comparison, and had sex with a dentist, they’d get a wire transfer of $3,333 per month for 23 years under the Massachusetts guidelines; see also the “American Child Support Profits Without an American Child” section of “Child Support Litigation without a Marriage”).
Does this make the fights that Europeans are having about who will take refugees (immigrants are supposed to yield economic growth, but somehow these countries are fighting for the right to become poorer by rejecting them?) moot? If refugees can and do move once they are “settled” with their 130 euro/month welfare check in Estonia, why does it matter how many refugees Estonia “accepts”? It seems that there are bureaucratic obstacles to moving to whichever European country offers the best package for immigrants:
“If I move to another country, they won’t accept me. I know several people who left Latvia. They all went to Germany but none of them can work there,” says Mekharena. Refugee status in Latvia only gives you the right to claim benefits or work in Latvia. It does not guarantee anything in other EU countries.
Readers, especially those in Europe: What’s happening with the refugee influx to Europe? Hatred of Donald Trump seems to have crowded out most other news in the U.S. for the past year or so.