The one-stop agency – Information Centre for Newcomers (ICN) – has provided information and support to 402 foreign citizens*, who arrived from 41 country outside the European Union, including 67 persons under international protection – 41 asylum seeker, 12 persons with the status of a fugitive and 14 persons, who received the status of a person under subsidiary protection, from 2 January to 30 June of this year in the territory of Latvia. Support was also provided to specialists from different areas, who work with this target group.
Most often support was provided to newcomers from Russia, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Vietnam, Syria, China and Uzbekistan.
“The most common subjects of consultation are employment, business opportunities in Latvia, family reunification and migration issues, including receiving and renewal of residence permits, similar to the last year. Often customers are looking for advice in matters related to acquiring education too,” remarks the Head of ICN Gunta Viksne (Gunta Vīksne), who emphasises that all ICN services are provided to its customers free of charge. Free psychologist’s services are also offered at the centre and this year five customers have made use of them – 22 sessions have been conducted in total.
ICN Interpreter Coordinator Sandra Spudina (Sandra Spudiņa) informs that since January of the last year in order to ensure high quality communication with customers ICN collaborates with 29 interpreters and language specialists with knowledge of 16 languages: Arabic, Kurdish, Dari, Farsi, Chinese, Spanish, Vietnamese, Turkish, Hindi, Urdu, Tigrinya, Sorani, Georgian, Bengali, Tamil and Chakma. “During the first six months of this year interpretation services were provided 366 times. Interpretation services were also provided to specialists working with foreigners, in addition to ensuring communication with the centre`s advisers, who consult customers. She mentions that for the purposes of communication with customers interpretation services were most frequently provided to medical staff in hospitals, polyclinics, to the State Employment Agency, banks, Riga Social Service, employers, the Latvian Centre for Human Rights, the organisation “Gribu palīdzēt bēgļiem” (I Want to Help Refugees), as well as to social workers and social mentors of the Latvian Red Cross.
This year considerable assistance in organising ICN activities has been provided by 22 volunteers from six countries. During the six months volunteers have organised 12 non-formal education and voluntary initiative activities, for example, White Tablecloth Celebration, International Mother Language Day, in cooperation with various higher education institutions workshops of ideas were organised with the participation of foreign students. All in all 211 persons from 20 countries — Latvia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, USA, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Syria, Russia, Chile, Israel, Belarus, Pakistan, India, Turkey, Azerbaijan, China, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Iran, Germany and Italy — have participated in events organised by volunteers.
Regular meetings of the Inter-Sectoral Dialogue platform are organised to ensure coordination of collaboration between institutions in the matters of integration. Organisations from the private sector are also involved in addition to national, local government authorities and non-governmental organisations. Its head Sigita Zankovska-Odina (Sigita Zankovska-Odiņa) informs that since January 2018 a total of 51 participant has been involved in the Dialogue platform, including 26 non-governmental organisations and societies, 12 national and 9 local government authorities, along with 4 private organisations.
“The fact that we are constantly joined by new participants proves that the Inter-Sectoral Dialogue platform is important and needed – during the first six months of this year we have been joined by 14 organisations. She indicates that five meetings have been held this year bringing to the forefront such subjects as “Public Attitude Towards Newcomers” and “The Role and Impact of Mass Media on It”. “We analysed jointly the results of the survey “The Opinion of the Latvian Public about Ethnic Relations in Latvia” and also gained an insight in the movement “Dažādībā ir spēks!” (In Diversity Lies Our Strength!) and the meaning of Ramadan in Muslims` lives”. During meetings of the platform`s member organisations we have also ensured a possibility to learn about the work of ICN regional contact points and activities planned by other NGOs in the field of integration of newcomers. To emphasise the main challenges and problems in the field of newcomer integration we have jointly prepared and submitted a joint letter to Saeima”.
ICN began its work as a one-stop-agency on 18 May 2016. ICN Riga office operates as a coordinating centre in Latvia. It provides assistance in dealing with problems of a particular customer and supports the ICN focal points/branches in the regions (in Cesis, Jelgava, Liepaja and Daugavpils) with regard to provision of services, ensures professional support to service providers in all municipalities in Latvia, coordinates awareness and availability of services to various groups of immigrants.
The centre has provided support to 3832 foreigners from 92 countries during the time of its existence, and provided 5585 consultations in total.
The activity of the Information Centre for Newcomers within the framework of the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund is ensured and developed by the NGO “Shelter “Safe House””. The centre is co-funded by the European Union. Grant Agreement No. PMIF/12/2017/2/01.
*persons who are not a citizens of the member states of the European Union, the European Economic Area or the Swiss Confederation.
Information prepared by: Rasa Salina (Rasa Saliņa), Multimedia Communications Specialist, phone 29145314, e-mail: email@example.com