Seeking asylum is a right, not an obligation. No one can be forced to seek political asylum against their will. However, persons who have been granted a permit to enter Lithuania for exceptional humanitarian reasons and who fear returning to their country of origin should hurry to take advantage of it before it expires. We are sharing the analysis of the managing partner Rytis Satkauskas, published at teise.pro.
Institute of Temporary Protection
Lithuanian legislation distinguishes between three different categories of international protection: temporary protection on the grounds of special humanitarian need (Article 94 of the Law on the Legal Status of Foreigners), subsidiary protection for persons unable to return to their country of origin due to the threat of persecution (Article 87 of the Law) and asylum (Article 86 of the Law).
Temporary protection does should not be confused with humanitarian protection Humanitarian Protection which is normally given to asylum seekers who do not meet the criteria for a grant of refugee status but would face a real risk of serious harm if returned to their country of origin. Instead, temporary protection is accorded to the people before submitting of the asylum application.
Entry on a humanitarian visa is different from the application of the 2001 EU Temporary Protection Directive (TBT), e.g. for Ukrainian refugees, though both result in similar protection status. It is based on the same humanitarian need to allow the entry of the people at risk of persecution. Notably, TPD is not about restricting asylum either; rather, it is about channeling large numbers of asylum seekers towards an immediate protection status with a view to preserving the functioning of the asylum system.
In order to avoid the risks of irregular migration in cases where it is very likely that a foreigner is at risk of persecution in his/her country of origin, EU Member States make it possible for a foreigner to enter their territory legally in order to exercise the right to international protection. Persons seeking to enter the Republic of Lithuania for exceptional humanitarian reasons must apply to the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania for a Schengen visa and provide information confirming the exceptional humanitarian reasons. According to the data of the Migration Department, more than one thousand such permits have been issued for entry to the Republic of Lithuania, but only a couple hundreds of those who escaped their country have applied for asylum or subsidiary protection.
Temporary protection is granted up to one year after a prima facie (preliminary) assessment of the threats. The regulation of the status of the people arriving on humanitarian visas are vague, however, the analogy with the humanitarian protection accorded through TPS is clear. Temporary protection entitles you to live and work in Lithuania, engage in individual activities, receive free healthcare, prescription medicines, social services, including employment support, free education for minors, children’s allowances, benefits, social assistance, and support for purchasing or renting housing. However, these generous rights of humanitarian visa holders are designed for one purpose: a foreigner who arrives because of a threat in his/her country of origin must apply for asylum.
A humanitarian visa granting temporary protection is valid for a limited period of time and cannot be extended automatically. A person who has not applied for asylum and who has not obtained a residence permit on other grounds must leave the Republic of Lithuania upon expiry.
International Protection or Temporary Residence Permit?
Foreigners who have entered the Republic of Lithuania with a humanitarian visa can only stay temporarily in the territory of the Republic of Lithuania until the expiry of the visa. Such a person may refuse to apply for international protection, even though that is the purpose for which the temporary protection was granted. For example, the person may fear that the authorities of his/her country of origin will become aware of the asylum application, thereby creating additional risks, including loss of nationality, or expect to apply for international protection in another country.
However, only international protection, i.e. asylum or subsidiary protection as defined in international instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Charter of Human Rights or the Refugee Convention, provides a guarantee that a person will not be returned to his or her home country. The implementation of this right is subject to a mechanism of verification of information on threats in the country of origin.
If it is established that the person has indeed left his/her country because of a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, and is unable to enjoy, or is afraid of enjoying, the protection of that country, he/she is granted asylum: a permanent residence permit in the Republic of Lithuania, which is renewable every 5 years, and which gives the right to work. After 10 years, the person can apply for citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania. A refugee travel document is issued.
If the threat that caused the person to leave his/her country of origin does not materialise, he/she may be granted subsidiary protection if he/she cannot return to his/her country of origin because of an absolutely well-founded fear that he/she will be subjected to torture, cruel or inhuman treatment or degrading treatment or punishment; there is a threat of execution or execution; or there is a serious and personal threat to his life, health, safety or liberty arising from acts of indiscriminate violence in the context of an international or internal armed conflict.
When a decision is taken not to grant refugee status but to grant subsidiary protection status, a temporary residence permit is issued, which is valid for 2 years and can be replaced after 2 years if the grounds for subsidiary protection are still valid.
However, the fact that the foreigner has prima facie been granted temporary protection following an assessment of the documentary evidence submitted, gives rise to the expectation of a positive asylum decision. By analogy to Article By analogy to Article 94 of the Law on Foreigners, persons who have arrived in the Republic of Lithuania on humanitarian visas and have applied for asylum retain the right to work or engage in individual activities from the date of registration of their application for asylum in the Lithuanian Migration Information System.