Latvian ambassador to USA: most often people turn to the embassy to request Latvian citizenship

Most often Latvia’s embassy in USA provides consular aid when a person is detained or arrested, if a person was a victim in some crime or was injured in some accident, or if a person died and support is provided to his or her relatives. Additionally, the embassy often provides people with the option to receive temporary travel documents (returnee certificate), Latvia’s ambassador to USA Māris Selga explained in an interview to Baltic News Network.
Selga said that the spread of Covid-19 in foreign countries has presented a new challenge for Latvia’s consular service. Following the increased spread of Covid-19 Latvia declared a state of emergency and shut down international passenger traffic in the country. This prompted the beginning of repatriation of Latvian citizens. The objective of Latvia’s embassy in USA was assisting Latvian citizens in leaving the country and returning to their homeland.
The embassy continues providing information regarding restrictions and epidemiological safety requirements imposed in most countries around the world. The embassy works especially hard when it comes to providing consultations regarding ways to returning to Latvia, BNN was told by the embassy.
Ambassador Selga also said that prior to the pandemic assistance was provided to eight detained or arrested persons in 2019. This year assistance was provided to nine.
In 2019 Latvia’s embassy in USA issued 37 returnee certificates in cases when travellers’ documents were stolen or lost. 29 such certificates were issued in 2020 and 18 have been issued this year so far.
In the last two years returnee certificates have been issued by the embassy to make sure Latvian citizens are able to return to Latvia. Because the pandemic made it impossible for Latvian citizens to return to Latvia and no mobile return trips were organized because of the epidemiological situation, in many cases citizens’ passports had expired, which prompted the embassy to issue temporary travel documents. Latvian citizens in USA who have a valid USA passport are issued with certificates that prove they are Latvian citizens and are permitted to enter the country, the ambassador told BNN in regards to the challenges caused by the pandemic.
Most often people turn to Latvia’s embassy in USA to register for Latvian citizenship, update information stored in Latvia’s registers based on changes registered by US institutions (registration of marriage, double citizenship, registration of place of residence in USA, etc.) and restore Latvian personal identification documents (passport, eID cards). For example, 112 exiles and 85 children have been registered for Latvian citizenship and 494 personal identification documents (passports, eID cards) have been issued so far.
«Restrictions imposed on social services potentially increase the risk of human trafficking»
BNN and the ambassador also touched on the sensitive and international topic of human trafficking.
The ambassador said the effect of Covid-19 pandemic on human trafficking risks and trends is under a great deal of focus at the moment.
The crisis has made and continues making a large number of people vulnerable. The risks involved with human trafficking are also high. A drop or loss of income, debts, mental health decline and restrictions on social services only serve to increase the risks of human trafficking, the embassy reports.
In 2020 Latvian diplomatic and consular offices in foreign countries, including Latvia’s embassy in USA, did not identify a single victim of human trafficking.
At the same time, five potential victims of human trafficking were reported to foreign institutions by Latvian consular and diplomatic services.
In 2020 the Consular Department of Latvia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs together with Ministry of the Interior implemented the social campaign «Are you a victim of human trafficking?». Three information videos telling about fictive marriage, slave labour and sexual exploitation were created as part of this campaign.
The embassy stresses those videos were made for Latvian audience and citizens of third countries living in Latvia. The purpose is telling people of the risks of human trafficking and where they can go to seek aid. During this campaign Star FM also organized discussions about human trafficking and its prevention with representatives of Latvian authorities.
To prevent inaction, which contributes to human trafficking, officials of consular services were given special training. One of the topics covered was taking action when dealing with potential human trafficking victims. Special emphasis was put on work with groups that are at risk the most – special needs people, people suffering from mental problems sight or hearing impaired persons, and invalids.
Selga stresses that the embassy’s work during the pandemic is as challenging as work in any other industry impacted by Covid-19. One of the most difficult tasks is finding an effective solution for distance work and assisting all the people asking for help, as well as developing mutual cooperation between countries.