Lithuania is a State of emigration. Country‘s emigration rates per one thousand residents are among the highest in the European Union. During the years of independence around 825 thousand people or almost one third of the Lithuanian population left their country. In Lithuania the majority of immigrants are returning Lithuanian citizens. In 2014 they accounted for as much as 80 percent of all arrivals. In Lithuania foreigners account for only 1.37 % of the population. This is one of the lowest rates in the European Union. The majority of foreigners have already become permanent residents of Lithuania . EU citizens that come to Lithuania and have no employment, income or place or residence find it difficult to obtain social or any other guarantees that belong to the citizens of the Lithuanian Republic or registered local residents.
During the year 2014, 25.8 thousand people immigrated to Lithuania. Compared with 2013 the number of immigrants increased by 3.8 thousand. General migration rate (number of immigrants per thousand inhabitants) in 2014 was - 4.3 people (while in 2013 - 5,7). Although, usually immigration is associated with foreigners arriving to the country, in Lithuania the majority of immigrants are Lithuanian citizens returning to their homeland. In 2015 they accounted for as much as 83 percent of all arrivals. In 2015, 8.7 thousand of returning (re-immigrated) Lithuanian Republic citizens arrived from the United Kingdom, more than 2 thousand – from Norway, 1.9 thousand – from Ireland, more than 1 thousand – from Germany. In 2012, nearly every second returning (re-emigrated) Lithuanian Republic citizen came from the United Kingdom, every eighth – from Ireland, every twelfth – from Norway. The majority of foreigners that immigrated to Lithuania in 2013 were citizens from the Russian Federation (774), Ukraine (413), Belarus (486), Latvia (126) and Poland (80).
The number of foreigners coming to Lithuania is not big – around 2000-2500 on the average a year. In 2013, about 3 thousand foreigners came to Lithuania, of which around 700 EU citizens and approximately 2300 citizens from non-European countries. In 2013 the number of immigrants increased due to increasing labor force demand – the number of issued work permits became bigger than in 2012. The majority of EU citizens arrived to Lithuania from Latvia and Poland. In accordance with the applicable procedures, EU Member States grant one‘s citizens and their family members who have come to live at the Republic of Lithuania for longer than 3 months within half a year, a permission to reside in the Republic of Lithuania in a form approved by the Minister of the Internal affairs. Also, the person must declare their place of residence. However, there are cases when persons who have arrived do not seek instructions from appropriate institutions or simply do not fall into the official statistics; therefore, it remains unclear what part of the newcomers have no permanent place of residence and possibly fall into the field of social risk.
In the Republic of Lithuania, two public institutions are responsible for the introduction of social policies in relation to housing exclusion and homelessness: the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Social Security and Labour. Municipalities are responsible for organising social services for homeless persons.
SOCIAL HELP AVAILABLE IN LITHUANIA
In Lithuania, persons are considered homeless if they are deprived of permanent place of residence and have no income to rent or buy at least a minimal housing, therefore sleep rough, in the manholes, landfills, heating networks, buildings that are not intended for human habitation, temporary residence homes (hostels and etc.).
In the Lithuanian social services system homeless people are not distinguished as separate group of clients; therefore, there are no special services for homeless people. Usually, homeless people can access social services that are designed for adult persons in social risk, as well as, services intended for other groups of clients, if a homeless person meets the criteria for groups (e.g.: is disabled, retired and etc.). Within the social services system, a homeless person by definition falls into the group of persons considered to be in social risk.
Social allowance: The amount of social allowance for a single person eligible to receive social allowance makes a 100% difference between the State’s support income for a single person (102 €) and the average monthly income of a single person.
- This allowance can only be paid to the persons who are registered at the Employment Agency and do not receive unemployment social security benefits;
- Allowance is issued for 3 months only – a person must request for continuation after every three months.
- A person must have declared one’s place of residence at the
municipality that he wishes to receive social benefits in;
- Normally, this allowance is granted to the person no sooner than within a month after the request submission.
Lump sum allowance up to 3 basic social allowances (38 - 114 €) can be granted to support persons living together or a single person who are facing financial difficulties and exhausted all other available sources of income, including family and community support.
- Lump sum allowance is granted only in exceptional cases for solving specific problems. E.g. to get personal documents, for medication, as supplementary income in cases of significant ordinary income decrease, to cover rehabilitation expenses, to cover important necessary trip expenses.
- A person must have declared one’s place of residence at the municipality that he wishes to receive social benefits in;
- A person should apply for allowance at one’s district. If a person is included into the lists for people without permanent place of residence, he must contact the municipal social center.
- A decision on the allocation of allowances must be made within 30 days.
- It can be difficult to receive this allowance within the few first months of the year when municipalities may not have received the entire funding. In such cases, payment of benefits may be delayed.
Lump sum allowance from 4 to 20 base social payments (152 – 760 €).
- This allowance is provided to the people who have unexpectedly lost their place of residence in cases when it is lost due to fire or other natural disaster.
- It is also provided to the persons whose financial situation has severely deteriorated after a certain accident or disease.
- Homeless people can also access these benefits in case if they move in to a social housing with poor domestic living
conditions when not even minimal furniture or utensils exist.
- To receive benefits a person should apply to the local
- All necessary documentation proving the necessity of benefits (medical certificates, statement from the fire department confirming the event of fire or other natural disaster) must be provided together with financial statements regarding one’s income.
Lump sum allowances for persons returning from prison. Persons who have completed at least 6 months of the sentence at imprisonment office, as well as, have declared their place of residence at certain municipality and have applied for allowance within 2 months after being released from the imprisonment office, are granted a lump sum allowance equal to 1 basic social payment amount (38 Eur).
Social assistance retirement and disability pensions. Entitled to receive this pension are persons without sufficient working time seniority to receive state social insurance pension. The amount of this pension currently is 102 Eur.
The compulsory health insurance is a guarantee for all insured that when needed their healthcare expenses will be compensated from the budget of the Compulsory Health Insurance Fund, irrespective of the contributions paid by the specific insured individual. The range of persons insured with State funds is fairly broad (those are retired persons, disabled, mothers in child-rising leave, schoolchildren, the unemployed registered with the Labour Exchange, persons receiving relief compensations and other individuals specified in Article 6(4) of the law on Health Insurance of the Republic of Lithuania).
The following persons shall be eligible for the compulsory health insurance:
1) citizens of the Republic of Lithuania and foreign nationals permanently residing in the Republic of Lithuania;
2) foreign nationals temporarily residing in the Republic of Lithuania, provided that they legally employed in the Republic of Lithuania, and minor members of their families;
3) unaccompanied foreign minors;
4) foreign nationals who have been granted subsidiary protection in the Republic of Lithuania;
5) persons to whom the Law on Health Insurance must apply under EU regulations on the coordination of social security systems. (National Health Insurance Fund under the Ministry of Health, www.vlk.lt)
If a person doesn‘t work, in order to access health services, he/she must be registered with local labour exchange offices or involved in vocational training measures organised by local labour exchange offices, unless he/she signs an employment contract.
Emergency medical services are provided free of charge to all residents. The extent of emergency medical services are approved by the Minister of Health in 2004.
Support Options for homeless migrants
Matters regarding citizens of the European Union living and working in Lithuania are regulated by the European Union Citizens Act. A foreign person, who is a citizen of one of the Member States of the European Union may arrive and stay in the Republic of Lithuania for up to 3 months within a 6 month period starting from the day of his arrival in the Lithuania. Citizens of the European Union who wish to stay longer than 3 months or have already been in Lithuania for longer than three months have to register with the Migration Department. Temporary residence permits are issued for periods of up to 5 years. (www.verslovartai.lt)
An unemployed person who wishes to register one’s place of residence in Lithuania, must have means of subsistence for at least 3 months (325 € for one month). After completing registration in Lithuania, a person must declare one’s place of residence at a certain municipality in order to become eligible to receive social services.
Organisations which can provide help for destitute EU mobile citizens:
Vilnius archdiocese Caritas Night shelter (Laikinieji namai) www.vilnius.caritas.lt
Vilnius municipality Night shelter http://www.vmnn.lt/
International organization of Migration
(IOM) Vilnius office www.iom.lt
Cross border cooperation
There is no established cross border cooperation practice in helping EU citizens who have become homeless away from their homeland. There are cases known when Western European organizations seek for contact with local organizations that can provide accommodation to a returning Lithuanian citizen. However, such cases usually are limited to the act of transferring such person to local organization, but no further practice exists in the case management to continue the work started.
Returning or considering returning Lithuanian migrants are consulted by Migration Information Center (MIC), which was founded by the International Migration Organization in 2015. In a one-stop shop institution returning migrants can receive information on the following topics:
• Work and employment in Lithuania;
• Social security;
• Health insurance;
• Arriving family members who are not
A., a 32 year old Lithuanian
A. left Lithuania together with several other people to work in London under an employment contract arranged by an agency. After arriving to London the promised job was not provided (the agreement was that A. will work various auxiliary works), however, place of residence was provided. For about a week A. was waiting for something to happen, wandered in the city, and lived on his savings. A’s rent was pre-paid. For a short time he was given a job by a new acquaintance from Pakistan. A. had to clean homes, also worked at a carwash, but not for long, since he was slow at his work. In about six weeks spent in London, A. became more acquainted with the city, gained more courage, began searching for work more intensively. A. also visited local employment agencies. According to A., one of the features that helped him was that he spoke English well enough. Eventually, A. had all the necessary paperwork done to begin receiving social benefits and was able to start working legally. A lot of help was received from the local Lithuanians who willingly shared their experience on how and where to find a job. A. started working as auxiliary worker, however, all such jobs were temporary. As a result, one week A. would get sufficient amount of money, but the week after he would be struggling. He worked at hotels, as a waiter, as a cleaner, did various gardening jobs and etc. He continued participating in the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, as he used to do in Lithuania – this was the place where he found support at hard times. After about one year A. had a relapse into alcoholism. A’s place of residence started changing constantly. He started living in the street, at a tent, in a garage or even at parks. In his half a year vagrancy A. was accompanied by a Latvian citizen. Afterwards, A. found shelter at one local church. This helped A. stop using alcohol and leaded to meeting an African man who offered him a room to stay in. A. managed to find a job at McDonald’s, but after receiving his first paycheck, A. gave in to alcohol once again. Nevertheless, new acquaintances helped A. to find shelter at a rehabilitation/ day care center funded by the London Lithuanian church. Despite the effort, A. got into a conflict with one of the residents at the center and eventually decided that he has had enough of this kind of life in London and contacted the Dellow center regarding returning back home to Lithuania. Dellow center employees took care of the necessary travel papers, contacted the emergency shelter in Vilnius and arranged for a primary lodging for the night there. In addition, A. was given 10 £ for unexpected expenses during his travel back home. Finally, A. safely returned to Lithuania where he spent several nights at the emergency shelter and afterwards applied for accommodation at Caritas Shelter home, which he knew of long before his trip to London.
F., a 47 year old Danish citizen
F. is a 47 year old Danish citizen. He is divorced, childless and maintains no relations with his relatives. F. has a confirmed disability due to depression and is addicted to sedatives. F. has left Denmark, as he claims himself, in order to start a new life, gain new friends and change his surroundings. Back in Denmark he lived at a social housing, was involved into criminal activity for which had had recently been released from the prison after one year of imprisonment.
When F. arrived to Lithuania, he had had left Denmark for several months already. At first, F. temporarily stayed in Germany, but after meeting a Lithuanian girl he decided to come to visit her in Lithuania. After coming to Lithuania, F. stayed at a guest house. However, relationship with a mentioned woman did not last long and after several weeks F. was robbed in the street – all his remaining disability pension money was stolen. Having been left without money F. was not able to pay for his stay at guest house, thus, at first, he slept in an open air, later he met some homeless people who invited him to live with them in an abandoned building. F. did not know where he could ask for social care. At one point F. attempted suicide by drinking all the pills he had. This brought him to a psychiatric hospital, which he was soon discharged from. Nevertheless, one social worker at the mentioned hospital contacted the Caritas Temporary Shelter Home to find accommodation for F. F. was not able to receive any municipal help, since he was not registered in Lithuania. Hospital’s social worker also contacted the Danish embassy, but F. refused to accept the help they offered (one of them – returning him back to his country). F. lived at Caritas temporary shelter home for 3 weeks until he received his pension and was able to find accommodation on his own. While living at the Caritas temporary shelter home F. was supervised by doctor (with F’s own consent) and his sedative medication dosages were gradually reduced. As a result, at the time when F. left Caritas home, he no longer used medication. Eventually, F. was provided assistance in taking care of all the necessary documentation while visiting various institutions to become registered in Lithuania.