Large migrant group stopped in forest near Rīga

A van carrying migrants who had crossed the Latvian border illegally was detained in the Tīraine forest area of Olaine parish on Wednesday, October 4. A group of 23 men have been detained, according to the State Border Guard, Latvian Radio reported October 5.

Around noon on Wednesday, Rīga Forests workers spotted the movement of suspicious vehicles in Tīraine forest, Olaine Parish. The vehicles were captured by a CCTV camera system which has been installed to prevent garbage being dumped in forests. The employees spotted a cargo van and passenger cars and made their way to the scene on suspicion of garbage dumping.

"When we arrived at the scene we realized it wasn't garbage but people in the van. Understanding that these are not Latvian-speaking people, and also knowing what was happening, our staff responded operationally and sent all the information further to the police. We were informed by police that the border guard should also be notified. And then after that, the further actions [followed] from law enforcement,” said Ieva Bērziņa, spokeswoman for Riga Forests.

The State Border Guard stated that during following questioning it was established that these were 18 Indian and five Eritrean citizens who had successfully managed to nearly reach the capital and who had previously crossed the Latvian-Belarusian border illegally. The area in which they were apprehended is more than 200 km from the border.

Persons have been detained in accordance with Section 51 of the Immigration Law and placed in the accommodation Center “Daugavpils” for foreigners detained by the State Border Guard, the border Guard indicated.

In response to the rapidly growing hybrid threat at the border, the State Border Guard has mobilized additional border guards to strengthen external border guarding. The service has requested additional support from the army and the State Police, but it is obviously impossible to deploy a guard per every square meter. This case proves that not only border guards but people across the country should be observant.

Usually, detained migrants who have entered Latvia and therefore the EU illegally are returned to Belarus, their official country of departure, without additional questioning. Latvia is not unique in this regard – such practices are also carried out in Poland and elsewhere.  Border guards prevent more than a hundred attempts to cross the border a day. On Tuesday, for example, there were 146 cases. In total, more than 10,000 border crossers have been turned back this year. 8-10 criminal proceedings are launched per week for organizing illegal migration.

"We know approximately the number of such groups that operate in our area, but it's not always that simple to catch them and it's not always that simple to get the material evidence of a crime committed [..] Whether we manage to capture 100% of the entire group - no, of course. If the public sees any wrongdoing, of course, they have to report it. This will also make it significantly easier for us to operate both special services, border guards and police so that together we can address this threat because it is not a threat to border guards or police, but to the whole society and the country as a whole,” parliamentary secretary of the Ministry of Interior Igors Rajevs noted.

It should be added that the Saeima is looking at amendments to the Criminal Law on Thursday, which provide for harsher penalties for participants in the hybrid war launched by the Lukashenko regime on Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

You may also like to see LTV's recent investigation of people smugglers operating along the Latvia-Belarus border.


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