Latvia-Belarus border to be under enhanced surveillance again

Once again, the flow of migrants from Belarus to Latvia is increasing. Less than a month after an increased border protection mode was suspended, the Ministry of the Interior will encourage it to reinstate it, Latvian Radio reported Monday, March 4.

State Border Guard chief Guntis Pujāts said that the influx of migrants was due to warmer weather. There have also been cases of damage to the border infrastructure. 

"January and early February could be called calm, recent days suggest that once again the number of offenses is on a growing trend. There were 75 attempts to cross [the border] illegally in February, there are already 46 in March, and that's only the beginning of the month,” Pujāts told LTV on Monday morning.

The Border Guard has already initiated the Ministry of the Interior to restore the reinforced border protection mode. Pujāts thinks it's a matter of the next few weeks.

Lithuania, and Poland in particular, are also seeing an increase in border crossings.

The Ministry of Interior is preparing for a decision on the restoration of the reinforced border protection mode, the Ministry's parliamentary secretary Igors Rajevs confirmed. It will be restored as soon as possible, taking into account the experience of the past few years. It will still be decided how widely to involve the police and the National Armed Forces (NBS), Rajevs noted.

"As the situation has deteriorated from the previous month, it is likely that the decision will be that, yes, it [the reintroduction] will have to be done. [..] In principle, all services are ready for this," Rajevs said.

This will give border guards the right to take more free action, they will have more powers. "The State Security Service shall work in close association with the State border Guard all the time. Let us also look at the need to involve the State Police and the National Armed Forces. It's going to be the next practical step," he added.

Previously reinforced border security mode in the border area with Belarus was in force until February 11, and it was also decided not to open the Silene border crossing point.

News of the flow of migrants towards Latvia from Belarus is followed by Anna Griķe, border monitoring expert at the society “I want to help refugees”. She says the association has not stopped working with asylum seekers at the refugee centers in Daugavpils and Mucenieki. The association does not intend to expand activities in the border area itself, relying on the work of the State Border Guard and other services involved.

“What would be the added value for us to be there on the ground? If we imagine the entire length of the border where the State Border Guard does its job and does it well in providing support to these people right on the border themselves, then it would be hard for me to imagine why we would be trying to do something simultaneously. What we are calling for is for the border guard to convey more transparently how people are deterred. There are other ways we see our opportunities to help, not such direct support at the border," said Griķe.

Last year 13,863 people were discouraged from crossing the state border illegally, while 428 were admitted for humanitarian reasons. In 2022, 5286 people were prevented from crossing the Latvian-Belarusian border illegally and 217 people were not prevented from crossing the border on humanitarian grounds.

Already 126 people have been discouraged from crossing the state border illegally this year and those numbers are projected to only rise.

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