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RIGA, June 20. /ITAR-TASS/. Latest research, conducted by Latvian Interior Ministry’s Office for Citizenship and Migration Affairs, shows that the problem of stateless persons will be fully resolved in the country by 2035, the director of the office, Igor Gorbunov, told Latvian Radio.
Stateless persons make up 13% of Latvia’s population today. Gorbunov confessed that the process of naturalization - or acquisition of citizenship by passing a special examination in the Latvian language and national history - was moving forward at a very slow pace.
Statistics of the past few years shows that only 2,000 stateless persons get Latvian citizenship a year on the average. The figure stands in marked contrast with the period of 2004 through to 2006 when citizenship was issued to 16,000 to 19,000 people annually.
One of the causes of the situation is an overly complicated exam. “The main conclusions drawn by the researchers suggest that the number of people content with the status of noncitizens has increased, and the overall interest towards getting citizenship remains at a low level,” Gorbunov said. “And in Riga it even saw a decrease.”
He believes that the status of noncitizen will cease to exist in Latvia by 2035. “From 85% to 90% newly born children are given Latvian citizenship at once now, and there’ll be no newly born noncitizens here soon,” Gorbunov said. “And if you consider the current tendency - the 2,000 or so stateless persons getting citizenship annually, there will be no noncitizens in this country by 2035.”
Latvia’s population exceeds 2 million people now, and about 320,000 of them do not have citizenship. They have been denied standard political rights as of the moment in 1991 when the former Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic declared itself independent from the former USSR.
The disqualifications include the right to vote and run for positions in local elections, to vote in the elections to the national and European parliaments, and to take part in national referendums. Noncitizens are also deprived of a range of social and economic rights and opportunities.
All in all, the list of legal inequities affecting the noncitizens includes 79 positions, with as many as 47 of them concerning restrictions on professional occupations.
Latvia’s parliament, the Saeima, has more than once rebuffed any efforts of the Russian-speaking opposition to alter the situation.