Dana (name and voice changed) agreed to meet with Latvian Television and talk about what happened. Her friend Uldis (name also changed) is in the Hungarian prison. He had told Dana he was going to Hungary on a trip.
“One day we couldn't contact him. We couldn't find him via phone or text messages. Everything was completely off. I called the Budapest police myself, asked how to find out, maybe the man was in the hospital,” Dana said.
After multiple calls, it was revealed Uldis had been arrested for smuggling people. Permission to contact him is still pending.
“No hope it happens quickly, either. It takes 4-6 weeks or longer. Any contact with the national authorities in Hungary is very slow. When they say national authorities in Latvia work poorly – here is something to compare it with! I see our institutions working well here. I would like to thank the Latvian Embassy in Hungary and our police person search department. Thanks to these people I managed to at least understand where he was, what was happening to him,” Dana said.
Dana now studies job advertisements such as “Looking for driver”. Some promise $1,600 per trip, some EUR 6,000.
“At this point, I understand there are three categories of people. One who knowingly do this because they think it will be an easy profit. The other – who also understand but do it in the face of despair, because it is urgent that some purpose needs money and therefore they decide on it, and the third who do not know that they will have to deal with illegal business. Because, as I have already managed to find out, they gave false documents and people thought they were carrying out legal services,” said the arrested driver's friend.
A total of 38 drivers from Latvia have been detained in Hungary since last year, according to data from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There are also several detained in other states this year. But it is known mainly about the fact of the detention, not the reason, and the data are incomplete.
Recruits are between 20 and 40 years of age from different municipalities of Latvia and with different levels of income. Most have not known they were involved in the crime.
Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Diāna Eglīte said: “These recruiters have also deceived them, they have said that you do not speak the language of the local state, so you will be treated more gently, you will be deported. There will be no punishment. They have been simply deceived and believed in it. Of course, it's not ruled out that someone is aware. Because there is one case where the driver has transported migrants at least 10 times.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs shall follow that detainees who wish to do so may contact their relatives, and have a lawyer and translator granted by Hungary, and their treatment is no worse than the local prisoners.
“Considering that not only Latvian nationals are recruited, but also nationals of other countries, the burden on the whole system is high. And this is why these trial proceedings can be drawn out,” said Eglīte.
Offers about jobs like these spring up again and again, some even stating outright that the job will be illegal. Dana, seeing new and new advertisements again, realized she couldn't keep quiet about what happened to Uldis: “To alert all people who had the slightest idea that nothing will happen to them, they're successful, born under a lucky star and no one will catch them. They will. Catch many of them.”
The expected penalty, is between 2 and 8 years in prison in Hungary.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs asks persons who are in an emergency situation abroad to contact the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by phone: +371 26337711 or e-mail: [email protected]. Persons whose relatives are missing abroad are invited to turn to the nearest State Police station.