Title: Society “Shelter “Safe House”"


Mission: Latvia – a safe house for different people! 

Field of activity: Society “Shelter “Safe House”” was established on August 6, 2007 with the aim to develop support services to victims of human trafficking, legal immigrants, including asylum seekers, refugees and persons granted subsidiary protection status by ensuring the individual’s right to receive adequate assistance and protection; promoting rehabilitation and reintegration of victims of human trafficking into the society; creating interactive forms of training, and expanding cooperation with state and local government institutions, public and Christian organizations in Latvia and worldwide. 

Home page:  http://www.patverums-dm.lv/

Twitter account: https://twitter.com/PatverumsDM

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Patverums.Drosa.Maja

Draugiem.lv: http://www.draugiem.lv/www.patverums-dm.lv/

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCx8r_dw85FN3Dy3Lim9fkXA

Open since: August 6, 2007

Provided services for the third country nationals: Social and legal assistance, Latvian language and conversational language learning. More information: http://www.patverums-dm.lv/lv/integracijas-projekti 

 How started your organization`s cooperation with the third country nationals? 

Society “Shelter “Safe House”” was founded with the aim to work with legal immigrants including asylum seekers, refugees and persons with alternative status. For better understanding in further discussion the refugees and persons with alternative status I will call refugees. With the increase of refugees – currently their number in Latvia exceeds 100 – the activities were focused directly towards these people as they are a group who require long-term support in the integration process especially due to different language.   

Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Iraq, Arab countries. Majority of persons who arrive to Latvia from these countries speak neither English, nor Russian. Though these are people that stay in Latvia most often in contrast to those who arrive here to study or work.

Language barrier is the major obstacle that prevents people to actively engage in arranging their life. For refugees it is difficult to arrange the necessary documents, get a job, but without a job it is not possible to earn resources for subsistence and become independent 

More extensively the society “Shelter “Safe House”” launched its work with the third country nationals in the framework of projects byEuropean Integration Fund announced and supervised by the Ministry of Culture. In 2009 the first support projects were implemented for newcomers and trained specialists in regions. 

What are major challenges you see for the third country nationals in Latvia – at both social and state levels?  

When we compare with the „old European member states” then the group of third country nationals in Latvia is small therefore in the framework of the projects support services are offered also to non-citizens who live in Latvia.

At state level the long-term integration policy is what lacks most of all. It is not defined who needs integration primarily, how long shall be the average integration process – three, five or maybe ten years?

Unfortunately, currently in Latvia there are fragmented measures to support newcomers, periodic projects but not long-term policy. Projects last for some months but integration, human adaptation to the new living place undeniably is a lasting process!

For feeling good in a foreign country you should know a lot of simple things, for example, how and where to find a medical assistance; where and how to place a child in kindergarten or school; how much cost various services; where can I engage if I have free time a.o. Newly arrived people have to find this information him/herself because knowledge on everyday related issues when start living in Latvia is small.   

Is your Association experienced in involving third country nationals in volunteer work? 

Association can be proud of lovely volunteers where refugees and third country nationals are among them.

It is a pleasure that a person finds his or her non-governmental organization and the aims of organization are in line with aims of an individual. And upon receiving the support from organizations a person wants to continue to communicate and engage in various activities as a volunteer.

For example, last year we organized several integration activities aimed to introduce the society with people from other nationalities who reside in Latvia, their experience and reasons that have brought them to Latvia, as well as about their future perspectives. Attendants of the event were acquainted with experience of Iran, Indian, Ukrainian and other nations` representatives by listening to the “Live books” – immigrants from several world countries – real life stories that is a unique way how to become acquainted with cultures of other countries. Third country nationals who are engaged in Association as volunteers were one of the “heroes” of this event. 

In your opinion, how Latvia looks in the background of other European countries?  

Though there is a widespread myth in the Latvian society that there is large number of newcomers, comparing to other European countries the numbers are small. During the age of globalization it should be realized that immigrants play an important role in growth of national economy. As an example I can give the Turks community in Germany that has contributed a lot to the development of Germany.

What are your observations and experience with respect to the Latvian society attitude towards immigrants? 

I think Latvians are [thinking]....relatively easily frightened! But these are unjustified, inexplicable fears where the cause is not looked for.

For example, if we speak about employment and fear that newcomers will take away from Latvians the working places – in reality it is a complete lack of knowledge – employer cannot straight away take on job the newcomer because priority right is to locals. And only if for the whole month the local person does not apply for the vacancy only then the employer has a right to take on the third country national for this vacancy. The one thing is clear – all working places where currently immigrants are employed Latvians don’t struggle to get there and they cannot to fulfill that.

It cannot be denied that our society has a lot of prejudices and stereotypes. But we should look for the common things and not different ones; we have to find the communication points of culture, interests and views and not to emphasize the differences. 

Does any third country nationals with whom you have cooperated faced different attitude or even discrimination case?   

Yes, there have been striking cases. 

One was related to ticket – collector attitude towards refugees who get around with the bus no.16. 

In this case the “Shelter “Safe House”” as a representative of the interests of refugees succeeded to get apologies from „Rīgas Satiksme” to these people and paid them back the penalty. More information about this case http://www.tvnet.lv/zinas/latvija/222144-rigas_satiksmes_kontrolierus_vaino_patveruma_mekletaju_apkrapsana 

The other case was related to holding back the wage. Also this case ended on behalf of foreigners.  Without support by lawyer of Association this person would not have been able to prepare the appropriate complaint, submit it to the court and represent himself. Following the court the employer paid back all withdrawn wage. 

How do you think what we could learn from other people living in Latvia? 

To begin with finding out about other countries from life stories by real people during similar events that we organize like „Live library” http://patverums-dm.lv/lv/uzdriksties-but-vienlidzigshttp://patverums-dm.lv/lv/vanishing-borders. During such activities also I have introduced the diverse cultures – the far-away Congo, the close St. Petersburg, I saw these place with the eyes of foreigners!

I think that you should not physically travel around the Earth to see the multicolored world as part of that you may see by means of presence of citizens from these countries! Undeniably – in these stories you feel the nostalgia of own country, longing for a home… 

Three things you would recommend to third country nationals who plan to arrive very soon in Latvia or who have just arrived to Latvia?

At first, I would advise to search for resources about associations of minorities whose representatives could be support persons to you during first months after arriving to Latvia.  It must be noted that there are relatively many different organizations that unite representatives form various nations.  And these organizations operate both at Riga and other places in Latvia.

Such organization may serve as a place from where to start to live in Latvia because not everyone knows, for example, the Society Integration Foundation www.sif.lv or similar Associations like the “Shelter “Safe House”” that can provide consultations and support services.

If there arise some misunderstandings the newcomer should to know where the closest embassy of his country of origin is because you cannot find embassies of all countries in Latvia.

I think that everything depends on person him/herself. The more active he or she looks for information about Latvia and necessary resources, the better he or she will feel when start to live in Latvia.

In your opinion, what is the role on non-governmental sector (NVO) in integration of immigrant in Latvia? 

Everything depends on the scope the state has delegated the provision of definite services to the non-governmental sector. The state`s attitude is still cautious. For now it is not yet ready to delegate services naming such reasons as bad experience in delegation of functions, inability of non-governmental organizations to administer finances, small experience in work with specific target groups a.o. Trust to non-governmental sector on behalf of state is low.  

However, it is evident that there are things that the state cannot and should not do. NGO sector is more creative and may find a new ways how to reduce problems existing in the society.

I also cannot deny that the existence of non-governmental sector in Latvia is on the verge of survival that could be one of the reasons why people in Latvia far to less engage in activities of these organizations comparing to Europe or Scandinavia. The same applies also to volunteer work.

Feedback from third country nationals about services provided by the “Shelter “Safe House””:

Veronika K, lives in Liepaja, in Latvia lives since 1988: „I am happy that we train colloquial language in the courses; so far I have studied only grammar. The reason I like it is probably the very good teachers. It was useful, pleasant with good results. I would like to proceed studying if the courses would be free of charge. I think that language has to be learned constantly if there will be a few month pause now there will be a `fall` in the language too.”

Maya F few years ago got married to Latvian and moved to Liepaja from Singapore: “The courses were an opportunity for me to get new society and, of course, to begin learning Latvian systematically. Some people in Liepaja can explain something in English but mostly people are talking Latvian. Now at least I can ask in Latvian simple things in the market or a shop. I would like to proceed learning, that would really make fitting in the native life easier. I will definitely use the materials in MOODLE too”.

More information: http://patverums-dm.lv/lv/informativa-diena-olaine-paplasinajusi-treso-valstu-valstspiederigo-socialo-kontaktu-tiklu/343?search=v%C4%ABzija


This publication has been produced with the support by the European Fund for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals. Funding has been allocated from European Fund for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals (75%) and Latvian state budget (25%). The responsibility for the content of this publication lies with the Society Integration Foundation.

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„Society Integration Foundation has established the e-platform www.ngolatvia.lv in the framework of the project „TOGETHER. UNITED. ACTIVE.” (contract No. IF/2011/1.a./16) funded by the European Fund for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals (75%) and Latvian state budget (25%). The responsibility for the content of this publication lies with the Society Integration Foundation, as well as information posted is each user`s own responsibility.”

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