Latvia-Belarus illegal border crossings intensify

The number of illegal border crossing attempts on the Belarusian side has risen rapidly, so life in the eastern border of Latvia has become more alarming, local government heads told Latvian Radio on August 17.

Last year a total of 5,286 people attempted to cross the Latvian-Belarusian border illegally, while 217 people were allowed entry for humanitarian reasons. This year, however, a total of 5,896 people have been prevented from illegally crossing the country's border, while 292 people have been admitted for humanitarian reasons.

The situation in Belarus's border area has become increasingly worrying in recent days. This is reflected in the rapidly growing number of illegal border crossings. According to Deputy Chief of State Border Guard Daugavpils, Lieutenant General Raimonds Kublickis, this week there were situations where up to 100 migrants attempted to enter the country in one day.

A reinforced operation of the border guarding system has replaced the state of emergency in the border area that had been in place since August 2021, which means both the increased mobilization of border guards and the recruitment of additional troops.

The situation in the border area has become more turbulent, according to local government leaders in the border area. For example, Aivars Rasčevskis (Daugavpils municipality party), Vice-President of the Council of Augšdaugava, told LTV that on the homepage of the city council of Augšdaugava, residents are invited to report if they see strange, unfamiliar people in the border area. Most of all, of course, it affects people living close to the border, both in the county of Krāslava and in the county of Augšdaugava.

People in border areas, such as Silene and Krāslava, also say that illegal immigrants have been seen. Border residents addressed by Latvian Radio said:

“We're not thrilled to have so many people crossing the border illegally. What's more, you can't know what they can expect. Mostly dark-skinned young men, at least twice a month, I see them passing. I haven't reported it because I didn't see danger in it."

“I'm glad they haven't stayed there for a long time, they go on. But somehow they are coming to Latvia and are able to cross the border, which means there are some companions."

It is precisely this issue that the meeting of the National Security Council, convened by the President of Latvia Edgars Rinkēvičs on Thursday, is planning to assess. The president stressed that there is currently too soft a policy of punishment for individuals engaged in organizing illegal migration. Namely, it's a 30-day sentence.

“Those who help, organize illegal migration and help the Alexander Lukashenko regime help the enemy. A 30-day sentence can be received for this, after which a person is well rested and continues to do what he did before. What is the point of asking the border guards, the National Guard and the National Armed Forces to actively protect the border if the courts and the prosecutor's office look at things differently in such situations,” the president said, adding that there must be more serious guidelines.

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