Letter: Latvia's criteria for granting citizenship

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Sir: The allegation by the Latvian parliamentarian Aleksejs Grigorjevs that the Latvian government has acted in a discriminatory manner in its citizenship policy ('Russians seek better epitaph in free Latvia', 20 February) cannot be substantiated. The policy does not discriminate against any individual on the basis of race or ethnic origin.

The existing criterion for claiming automatic citizenship is based on whether or not the individual was a citizen of Latvia (or is the descendant of such a citizen) when the country was illegally occupied by the Soviets in June 1940. This legal basis for granting citizenship has been accepted by the United Nations. The report by their Centre for Human Rights states:

. . . it cannot be said that Latvia is in breach of international law by the way it determines the criteria for granting citizenship (13 November 1992, para 31).

The fact that about 25 per cent of Latvia's current population was encouraged to migrate to Latvia by an occupying power gives these individuals no legal right to automatic citizenship. Under such circumstances, the refusal of automatic citizenship is not a form of discrimination.

Yours faithfully,

IMANTS LIEGIS

Counsellor

Embassy of Latvia

London, W2

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