Latvia's Interior Minister: Migrant smuggling tactics have changed

People smugglers who illegally help to cross the Latvian-Belarusian border have changed tactics – they do not move on immediately, but remain on the territory of Latvia for some time, Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis said in an interview with Latvian Radio on October 6.

Over the past 24 hours, 85 people were prevented from crossing the Latvian-Belarusian border illegally, which is less than the average so far in one day, but it is not yet possible to conclude whether pressure on the Latvian border is easing, the minister said.

Kozlovskis said that the length of the border is 172 kilometers and Latvia's capacity does not allow to place a border guard for every kilometer, 24/7. “We have stopped more than 10 thousand people [from crossing the Latvian-Belarusian border illegally]. That's something, right?” the minister added.

Those who have entered Latvia are often spotted in abandoned buildings. “It's not like there's some sort of stage that they cross and then nothing happens,” Kozlovskis said.

He said the tactics of the carriers were being changed:

“If immediate transport by means of vehicles was used in the past, then now, realizing it is causing great damage, they are hiding near the borders of Latvia and trying to move inland in a different way afterward. Instead of moving on straight away, they hang around for a week before moving on. ”

The minister hopes that the recently adopted amendments on harsher penalties for migrant smuggling will play a role in improving the situation. 

“This business has not stopped since 2010-2011. (…) There is a battle with causes, and the cause is the war in Ukraine. It is a deliberate Russian policy of directing refugees to Belarus and the deliberate help and support of the Belarusian regime to make such a situation happen. That's the reality. We are doing a very important job with the resources we have, protecting the European Union as a whole,“ the minister said.

The minister compared the current situation to 2015, when there was also a refugee crisis: “There were virtually no problems in 2015 - any individuals who were detained were taken back by both Belarusian and Russian border guards. Now it's the opposite.“

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