5 August, 2021
The migrant crisis on the Lithuania-Belarus border may also affect Latvia, therefore the Chairperson of the Judicial Council Aigars Strupiss already calls on the judicial system to identify possible risks and envisage methods for prevention thereof.
The letter sent by the Chairperson to all members of the Judicial Council draws attention to the growing number of migrants crossing the Latvian-Belarusian border. If this trend continues, there is a strong likelihood that dealing with migrants will require far more resources from the judiciary than is currently available to the courts.
At present, cases of residence permits, which make up a relatively small part of the total number of cases pending before Latvian courts, are examined by nine judges. Although migrant cases will mainly affect administrative courts, the workload on courts of general jurisdiction may also increase, as they may receive criminal cases and administrative offense cases related to migrants and may also have to deal with civil disputes. Consequently, the resources of the judiciary in the event of an unforeseen increase in the number of these cases could be limited and present serious risks to the judiciary as a whole.
The Chairperson of the Judicial Council points out that, as issues with refugees usually arise suddenly and are avalanche-like, efforts must be made now to identify potential risks and actions to eliminate them. Currently, "key points" include the number of judges dealing with this category of cases and adequate support staff resources, in particular trained judicial assistants and additional support staff – secretaries and employees of court registry. The courts must also be familiar with the current case law of the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union on these issues, as well as have information on the current situation in the countries, where migration takes place (currently Lithuania, Afghanistan, Cameroon, Iraq, Syria). The courts must have the contact details of required interpreters as well as the embassies concerned. Finally, the possibility for courts to use an escort or to hold remote hearings ensuring connection to asylum seeker centres should be explored, especially if new temporary centres are to be set up.
The Chairman of the Judicial Council calls on the Minister of Justice, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior, to monitor the development of the situation and to provide timely information to the Judicial Council in case of significant changes.
The Division of Case-law and Research of the Supreme Court is tasked with identifying the current case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights in resolving migration issues.
The information provided by the Chairperson of the Judicial Council has also been communicated to chairpersons of all courts.
"Currently, the situation does not require active approach, so we remain in observation mode. We will hope for the best, but we will gradually start preparing for the worst,” states the Chairperson of the Judicial Council.
Information prepared by
Rasma Zvejniece, the Head of the Division of Communication of the Supreme Court
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