In 1997, the country ratified the 1951 Geneva Convention and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. These agreements, together with the Law on Refugees of the Republic of Lithuania passed in the year 2000, formed the legal framework within which it was possible to develop a uniform Lithuanian asylum policy. The 2004 Law on the Legal Status of Aliens changed the asylum application process, adapting national legislation to the EU acquis communautaire.
According to the Department of Migration, compared with other Baltic States, Lithuania has the highest number of asylum seekers. However, in comparison with Europe as a whole the number is small.
An asylum seeker must have arrived in Lithuania by crossing the border in the normal manner, or have presented themselves to the local authorities or the police within 48 hours of their entry. In practice, however, this can hardly be proved and so all applications are accepted in the first instance. This means that an application for asylum can be made both at a border crossing and at a police station. During the decision process, asylum seekers are accommodated in the Foreigners Registration Centre in Pabrade.
In the year 2005 there were a total of 410 applications for asylum. In the same year, 15 applications for asylum were granted on the basis of the Geneva onvention. A further 328 applicants were granted subsidiary protection due to the impossibility of repatriation on account of acts of war, humanitarian crises, illness or other humanitarian reasons. In both categories, citizens of the Russian Federation represented the clear majority, followed by persons of Afghan nationality.
If the decision is affirmative, the persons concerned are taken to the Refugees' Reception Centre in Rukla. There a stay of six months is permitted which may be extended under certain conditions. Since 2005, initial integration measures have been offered at the reception centre. These include intensive language courses, professional training programmes and advice on how to enter the job market.
After staying at the reception centre, refugees and persons who have been granted subsidiary protection are given accommodation by local authorities. Further state aid is offered to assist integration. The twelve-month
The living conditions for asylum seekers in the Foreigners Registration Centre in Pabrade have received criticism from international organisations. The Red Cross and UNHCR consider the centre, which looks like a prison, to be unsuitable for accommodating persons who have escaped crisis situations in their country of origin. Both organisations are currently attempting to persuade the Lithuanian government that asylum seekers should be accommodated together with refugees and persons who have been granted subsidiary protection in the reception centre in Rukla.