United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1998 - Lithuania, 1 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8be44.html [accessed 11 December 2013]
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Lithuania hosted about 100 people granted temporary protection or asylum at year's end. On January 21, the Lithuanian parliament ratified the UN Refugee Convention and Protocol. Lithuania's Law on Refugee Status became effective in July. During the year, some 161 persons (123 cases) applied for asylum in Lithuania. The majority were from Afghanistan (31 percent), Sri Lanka (18 percent), Somalia (17 percent), India (11 percent), and Pakistan (11 percent). Lithuania ruled on 160 asylum applications, granting temporary protection to 100 and refugee status to five, and rejecting 54. Those granted refugees status were from Iraq and Georgia. Lithuania's Law on Refugee Status allows persons to declare their intent to apply for asylum upon crossing the border. It also permits persons who have entered the country illegally to seek asylum, provided they apply within 48 hours of entry. UNHCR trained Lithuanian officials on asylum procedures, international refugee law, and refugee registration during the year. The Lithuanian Red Cross, with UNHCR financial support, recruited and trained three asylum lawyers who successfully defended their first asylum case of a family of three Iraqis in November. A formal UNHCR asylum training program for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania implemented through UNDP's office in Lithuania was scheduled to begin in 1998. Detention/Registration Centers Until Lithuania enacted national refugee legislation in July 1997, it did not differentiate asylum seekers from undocumented migrants, preferring to view all as illegal entrants, subject to imprisonment. At the end of 1996, Lithuania held in detention some 1,500 "illegal immigrants," mostly from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, and Iraq. Lithuania's "Foreigner Registration Center" in Pabadre, with a 400-person capacity, held about 500 immigrants and asylum seekers at the end of 1997. In December, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) funded the deportation of more than 400 people from Pabadre to their countries of origin. According to a Lithuanian parliament member who visited the center late in the year, Pabadre detainees lived in poor, overcrowded conditions and were sometimes held in solitary confinement for a week or more for minor offenses. To protest Pabadre's poor conditions, detainees rioted several times in May and July, causing numerous injuries and structural damage. About 100 detainees escaped during one of the riots, but most were later recaptured. In September, the government announced plans to increase Pabadre's capacity from 400 to 600 places. Several hundred newly arrived undocumented aliens who did not wish to apply for asylum were brought to Pabadre during the year, according to UNHCR. In March, Lithuania established a "Refugee Reception Center" in Rukla, where conditions were better. Upon its opening, 22 asylum seekers were transferred from Pabadre to Rukla. At year's end, at least 97 asylum seekers granted temporary asylum were housed in Rukla. Travel/Readmission Agreements Lithuania concluded visa-free travel agreements with Sweden and Finland in 1997. It has readmission agreements with several countries, including the Ukraine. Lithuanian and Russian negotiators met in Moscow in October to complete their border agreement. The government announced plans to sign readmission agreements in 1998 with Belarus and the Russian Federation, through which more than 80 percent of undocumented migrants are believed to reach Lithuania.