Litvaks continually rejected restoration of Lithuanian citizenship

The Lithuanian Migration Department is continually rejecting the restoration of citizenship for Litvaks (Lithuanian Jews) and their descendants who are residing in Israel and South Africa

Since November 2015, the Lithuanian Migration Department has been rejecting the majority of applications from those who wish to restore their Lithuanian citizenship. This extends to those who left Lithuania during the 1920-1939 interwar period, plus their descendants.

According to Lithuanian Citizenship Law, those who left Lithuania before March 11 1990 and acquired citizenship of a different country can be citizens of Lithuania. The law also applies to their descendants. 

Around 1,000 Litvaks living in South Africa have sought to use this piece of legislation. However, citizenship restoration was suspended for some mid-2015.

Migration specialists follow the case law that those left Lithuania before March 11 of 1990 should include the former Lithuanian citizens who fled the country for political reasons, resistance to occupation regimes or persecution by the regime.

“The treatment has changed,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told BNS. “This applies to those who left Lithuania in 1918-1939. The discussion is that there was no violence, repressions or anything like that at the time.

Therefore, the departures cannot be considered an attempt to escape threats.”

The minister refused to give his opinion on the situation, as the analysis is still in progress. 

“I am aware of the problem, and some people are not happy,” he concluded. 

Evelina Gudzinskaite, the acting chief of the Lithuanian Migration Department, claimed that the decision to revise the practice of dual citizenship came after the 2013 and 2014 rulings by the Lithuania’s Supreme Administrative Court.

She emphasised that dual citizenship was granted to Litvaks who fled occupied Lithuania, as well as their descendants. According to her, migration specialists also reject applications from ethnic Lithuanians who emigrated in the interwar period.

According to statistics, the rejected responses are a small number in terms of applications. In 2015, 488 applications from Israeli citizens to keep their dual citizenship were approved, while 54 were rejected.

“This is arbitrary practice, not an interpretation from Constitutional Law,” said conservative MP, Emanuelis Zingers – a signatory o the 1990 Independence Act. “This denies all the Lithuanian ideals of March 11.”

Zingeris also told BNS he had heard inquiries on the topic during his recent visit to Israel.

According to the 1923 general census, nearly 154,000 Jews lived in Lithuania. During that time, Vilnius was part of Poland. 

During the interwar years, they emigrated to Palestine, South Africa and the United States. About 25,000 Jews left Lithuania between 1923-1939.

Lithuania lost more than 90 percent of its pre-war Jewish population during the Holocaust.