Interior Minister Tomas Žilinskas says that the Iraqi refugee family who have asylum in Lithuania, but have been away in Sweden for more than a month now, have not broken any rules as yet.

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The refugee family arrived in Lithuania last December
© DELFI / Tomas Vinickas

The family of four arrived in Lithuania last December under the European Union's refugee resettlement programme. The media reported that they could have permanently gone to Sweden after the father of the family failed to show up at work after a break.

"Let's not dramatize the situation. The Iraqi family have a temporary residence permit in Lithuania and are free to travel all over the European Union. As far as I know, the family went to see their relatives or friends. They are not violating anything, at least for now. They can stay in another country," he told BNS.

In the minister's words, it is too early to say that the Iraqis will not return to Lithuania. Just like Lithuanian nationals, they can live abroad for up to three months in a half-year period or up to six months a year.

If the Iraqis opted against returning to Lithuania, that would put a question mark over their status that allows them to live in Lithuania. However, they would not risk being sent back to Iraq, Žilinskas said.

The Iraqis, relocated to Lithuania under the EU's resettlement program, were granted legal protection and residency in Lithuania in late 2015. They sought refugee status, but lost their lawsuit against the Migration Department.

The Iraqis complained that the benefits they received from the Lithuanian state were too low to live on.

Lithuania has committed to taking in 1,105 refugees from Syria, Iraq and Eritrea, over two years under the EU's program. They are being relocated from Italy and Greece, the EU countries facing the biggest influx of migrants.

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