65 more illegal border crossers, Latvia might have to set up camps

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The capacity of detained foreign nationals' accommodation centers has been exhausted, so it may be necessary to erect tents and other structures for the accommodation of border offenders, the Head of the State Border Guard Guntis Pujāts told LETA on Monday, August 9, evening.

On Tuesday, August 10, the government is expected to decide whether to announce an emergency which will extend the right of border guards to send migrants back to Belarus. Pujāts did not specify the extent of the powers of border guard following the announcement of the state of emergency.

“The decision of the government will set the rights and powers that will be granted to the border guard. The border guard has defined its needs for more active targeting of illegal border offenders,” said Pujāts.

Pujāts said that the capacity of accommodation centers for detained foreigners and other accommodation facilities at the disposal of the Border Guard has already been exhausted. Five border offenders are currently infected with Covid-19, which means that epidemiological security requirements must be met in the premises.

“It is therefore important to announce a state of emergency so that municipalities and other services can be involved in dealing with the crisis,” Pujāts said.

As possible solutions, he mentioned tent accommodation, local government property, such as unused boarding schools or the National Armed Forces infrastructure. “The most realistic thing could be the placement of tents,” said Pujāts, adding that the government meeting will also decide on what structures will be used in the border area.

In the morning of August 10, Pujāts told Latvian Television that 65 more border offenders were detained during the night. Thus, there have been more than 200 offenders in 24 hours. According to Pujāts, the migrants are coming in large groups as an organized flow.

Juris Rancāns, Chair of the Saeima Defence, Internal Affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee, told Latvian Radio August 10 that he believes National Armed Forces (NBS) should be involved more to prevent migrants from entering the country illegally.

“And not to detain [offenders], as has been the case so far, and [provide] accommodation, further problem-solving, but to directly deter so that they do not reach [Latvia] and we do not get into Lithuania's situation where there is a threat of a criminal situation, where the flow that comes with immigrants can also be a terrorist risk,” Rancāns said.

In his opinion, it is possible to avoid illegal crossings of the border in time with closer surveillance of the border: “When these people see people with weapons in their hands, that is enough. No one goes violent on them. They understand that there is that control that will hold them down and they won't get further but be forced to live in camps. It will be a motivation for them not to cross the border.”

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