As the European Union launches talks on refugee distribution, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė says accepting several hundred refugees is not only a challenge but also an opportunity to solve the problem of short workforce supply.
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Talks on how many African refugees, who have flooded Italy and Greece, each EU state would accept were launched in Luxembourg on Thursday. Lithuania will probably have to accept more than 250 refugees, a number the Lithuanian government endorsed earlier, but fewer than 710, as the European Commission proposed earlier.

"I think we'll be capable and that it will be good experience as we'll learn to deal with things and prepare infrastructure. The lack of workforce shows that we really need people," the president told the national radio LRT on Thursday. "Lithuania would make use of the opportunity by integrating refugees and immigrants who want to live in Lithuania. We have to think about our future and see not only a challenge but also an opportunity."

Foreigners who would come to Lithuanian under the EU program would be accommodated at the Refugees Reception Centre in Rukla and nongovernment organizations would later take care of their settlement in other Lithuanian municipalities. Refugees would be taught Lithuanian and registered at the Lithuanian Labour Exchange. Lithuania would be paid EUR 6,000 for every refugee.

Dr. Karolis Zibas of the Lithuanian Institute for Ethnic Studies says Lithuania would not face the problem of immigrant "ghettos" as very few of them would actually stay in Lithuania, choosing instead richer West European countries.

"We have to realize that if those 250 or more refugees were brought to Lithuania, the majority of them would leave the country probably the next week and go to where they want to live – Sweden, the UK or elsewhere. Migrant quotas do not solve the problem. They only create a certain illusion that Europe shares the asylum system," he told BNS.

Lithuanian and EU representatives are on Thursday holding negotiations on ways to distribute among themselves African refugees who have flooded southern Europe.

EU member states have already agreed to relocate 40,000 refugees from Italy and Greece and also resettle another 20,000 nationals from third countries. The move comes in response to the drowning of thousands of refugees while crossing the Mediterranean to Europe.

During the two-day meeting in Luxembourg, ministers will be negotiating refugee numbers for individual countries.

The Lithuanian president said that Luxembourg, currently holding the rotating EU presidency, had proposed taking the size of a country's economy and its population as key distribution criteria, which is more acceptable for Lithuania, compared to what Brussels initially offered.

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