With the EU's resettlement programme having reached its midway point, Lithuania faces the challenge of taking in more than a thousand refugees from the Middle East within slightly more than a year and successfully integrating them into the society.

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Refugees
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Lithuania has until now been slow in implementing the programme, under which it has pledged to accept 1,105 migrants over two years. Only 39 people have been relocated to the country since the launch of the programme almost a year ago.

That means that Lithuania still has to take in more than a thousand people from the Middle East to fully implement the program by September 2017.

The authorities are set to devote more attention and resources to teaching refugees the Lithuanian language, a key challenge in their integration process.

A Syrian man told BNS at the Refugee Reception Centre in Rukla that he wanted to acquire as soon as possible the Lithuanian language skills needed to understand Lithuanians and find a good job.

"This is one of my biggest concerns, because the Lithuanian language is not easy," Radwan Gid, who worked as journalist in his home country, told BNS.

Unlike Gid, who speaks fluent English, many refugees from the Middle East who are coming or will come to Lithuania speak only Arabic.

With the number of such migrants increasing, the Rukla Refugee Reception Centre considers hiring more interpreters and teaching its own staff at least basic Arabic, Robertas Mikulėnas, the centre's director, told BNS.

The centre currently uses the services of one interpreter and Syrian and Iraqi refugees who speak English also help to communicate with those who do not speak the language.

The Social Security and Labour Ministry, in its turn, plans to offer more hours of language classes to refugees in Rukla.

"We are thinking about providing more intensive Lithuanian language training in Rukla and will do so in the near future," Deputy Social Security and Labour Minister Algirdas Šešelgis, who is responsible for refugee integration in Lithuania, told BNS.

Refugees are currently provided with a 100-hour course of the Lithuanian language at the centre and will be given almost 200 hours in classes in municipalities where they go after the initial phase in Rukla.

Interior Minister Tomas Žilinskas has recently criticized Lithuania's refugee integration policy, saying that migrants are put into a social environment that does not help their integration and that people at integration centres pick up on Russian faster than they learn to speak Lithuanian.

A total of 66 migrants currently live at the Rukla centre, including 34 refugees relocated under the EU program.

There are presently a total of 4,000 foreigners from third countries in Lithuania.

BNS
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