Ministry urges tougher checks on travelers from Russia, Belarus

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The Ministry of Interior of Latvia will urge the government to adopt amendments which include increased checks on Russian, Belarusian, and Cameroon citizens traveling to Latvia, LETA reported August 3.

In recent years, there has been a growing tendency to apply for long-term visas by citizens of Cameroon at the Latvian Embassy in Egypt. In 2021, the embassy has significantly increased the number of visas refused to Cameroon citizens. From a total of 36 visa refusals, 33 were to citizens of Cameroon.

Similarly, documents with visible signs of counterfeits are frequently identified in the embassy and in the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when legalizing documents issued in Cameroon. Due to the high proportion of falsified documents, there is a reasonable suspicion of the true identity of those documents, and there are reasonable grounds for believing that the entry of citizens of Cameroon could be linked to threats to national security, public order and safety.

In the context of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the IHR stresses the need to carry out enhanced inspections of Russian citizens traveling to Latvia in order to assess whether the entry will pose a threat to national security or public order and security.

11,087 visas were issued to Russian citizens last year. 1,448 visas were issued between 1 January 2022 and 24 February 2022, and 910 visas were issued this year from 25 February to 17 June 2022.

In the context of Russian aggression in Ukraine, Latvian missions abroad have stopped accepting visa applications from Russian citizens for an indefinite period from February 25. Visas shall be issued only in individual exceptional cases, if it is related to humanitarian considerations.. Estonia and Lithuania, as well as Poland and the Czech Republic, are also using the same model.

The Ministry reiterated that the Belarusian regime is supporting the Russian invasion of Ukraine by allowing the Russian armed forces to use Belarus territory and airspace to prepare and implement attacks. For some time, there has been close cooperation between Russian and Belarusian intelligence and security services, through joint operations, as well as through the active use of Russian and Belarusian citizens to carry out intelligence activities.

In the light of the above, the Ministry has prepared amendments to the provisions on countries whose nationals are subjected to additional checks when issuing a visa or residence permit.

It is also encouraged to clarify these rules by providing that an additional check will be carried out on all citizens of Russia (irrespective of the person's place of residence or place of birth) who wish to enter the territory of Latvia.

The amendments will therefore ensure that, in the future, citizens of these countries will be subjected to additional checks when issuing a visa or residence permit in order to minimize the threat to national security in Latvia.

Currently, the amendments have been tabled in coordination with the Ministries of Finance, Justice, and Foreign Affairs. The deadline for arrangement is mid-August. The amendments will then have to be decided by the government.

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