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Despite this relatively small number, the issue of refugees has been deeply unpopular in the Baltics, contributing to the governments’ sluggish response in meeting quotas and hesitation to pledge to take in more refugees. For example, in 2018 Latvia granted refugee status to just 23 individuals. The situation is so serious that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has repeatedly called upon the Baltic governments to address their demographic challenges, as the resulting lack of a labor force has significantly impacted the region’s potential for future economic growth.
Returning Estonians can qualify for a support payment from the Integration and Migration Foundation’s Our People program, while returning researchers can receive grants.
Immigration is governed by the Aliens Act, which since 2008 has been amended five times, each reform making it easier for foreign workers to arrive and work in Estonia.
The policy specifically targets highly qualified individuals and facilitates residency for those specialists who earn their degrees at Estonian institutions of higher education.
Population shrinkage in nothing new in the already sparsely populated Baltics: during periods of Nazi and Soviet occupations, the region suffered from tremendous loss of residents.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and opening of the borders to the West, the Baltics experienced significant emigration.