LTV's De Facto looks at border fence-building acceleration plans

One point of the new government declaration is a commitment to complete the construction of the fence on the border with Belarus by the end of this year. If this step were not taken, the process would extend into 2025, reports Latvian Television's De Facto broadcast on September 17.

Over the past two weeks, attempts to illegally cross the border of Latvia have increased rapidly – up to 256 people overnight, according to the State Border Guard's data.

Efforts to dig through the bottom of the fence have also been recorded on the border. In 57 locations, the fence has been damaged while trying to break through it. Someone used a makeshift staircase.

“Time is key. Namely, a fence in any case. If it's a very large group, getting through one at a time, it takes quite a lot of time, and of course, it gives us the ability to react and catch offenders at close range,“ State border Guard Chief Guntis Pujāts said.

If 5,286 attempts by migrants to cross the border illegally were prevented last year throughout the 12 months, this year there have already been more than 8,000. To deal with the situation, the army, police, and border guards from neighboring countries are attached. There is no fence all along the border yet, yet hybrid warfare organizers are also using it.

“Yes, clearly the opposite side follows the development of the situation on our side as well, including the stages and places of construction of the infrastructure. Because what is testifying to this is the fact that attempts to eject persons to our territory are most often detected in the places where the permanent fence has not yet been built,” said Raimonds Kublickis, head of the Daugavpils Administration of the State border Guard.

The new fence has been installed in different places spanning about 78 kilometres in total. Border guards are looking forward to starting using the tunnel under the railway, which will allow them to cross the tracks without having to make a curve of over ten kilometers. The driveways are still under construction. They were scheduled to be ready this summer, but deadlines have been moved.

Latvia has been trying to get to the fence up on the Belarusian border for more than six years. A series of scandals also surrounded the process when the flow of migrants was already flowing across the border. The work was suspended following a critical report by the State Audit Office. The Internal Security Bureau also brought on criminal cases, part of which have been dropped. Now, since last summer, the process has been going on, but it's not happening as fast as it could.

That the work may not be going too smoothly was evidenced by an unusual advert this summer. The commissioning party, “State Real Estate,” was looking for construction firms that could become subcontractors for the general contractor Citrus Solutions.

“There are certain challenges or challenges - as with any other construction project, this project is not unique either and Citrus Solutions is problematic in attracting subcontractors (..)

“Recognizing the importance of the project, including protecting the country, it is our responsibility to think creatively, which then we can do as much as we can, how we can help, and this is the internal decision of the company, how we see what we can then do, how we can engage local governments, and how we can address maybe additional entrepreneurs that Citrus has not been able or not able to mobilize due to some circumstances,” said Renars Griškevičs, Chairman of the Board of State Real Estate.

30 construction companies have responded to the invitation and information about them has been referred to Citrus Solutions. Negotiations have been held with a third of them and one or two could sign the contract, said Kārlis Kostjukovs, Chairman of the Board of Citrus Solutions. He did not talk about the difficulty of attracting the performers, but repeatedly calls the advertisement a welcome initiative from the commissioning party. And also stressed that there was no shortage of workers now.

Last year, when Citrus Solutions was contracted, the entire fence and adjacent roads, paths, and pontoons were expected to be built by mid-2024. The start of work was delayed by three months last year - in relation to land ownership and necessary deforestation. Then winter came, and it also proved necessary to correct a faulty topography. As a result, the projected end date of construction works has already emerged in mid-2025.

The builder promised that this time winter would not be a hindrance to the works.“The plan is that we get to these stages in the spring, build and finish works by mid-summer. I don't see any problems there. We have mobilized a very large number of people,” Kostjukovs said.

Now former Interior Minister Māris Kučinskis (United List) believes that there is nothing to prevent the border from being built now:

“All obstacles have been removed at this time. All the possible mechanisms are in place right now, so there are no disruptive factors apart from the question of why [the fence] wasn't there yesterday, why not today, why isn't it there tomorrow. ”

This mobilization will cost the country about three million euros in addition.

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