Latvian-Belarusian border still quiet but 'could soon change'

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For the time being, the situation on the border of Latvia-Belarus is relatively peaceful, but the situation can change, Latvian Television reported August 3.

In response to a call from the European Asylum Support Office, two Latvian specialists will help their counterparts in Lithuania, which is currently facing an unprecedented flow of refugees across the border with Belarus. Latvia is expected to send two specialists to Lithuania to work with vulnerable persons – single mothers, sick people or unaccompanied minors. They will help Lithuanian counterparts for two months, as the flow of illegal migrants across the Belarusian border has recently increased dramatically. Since the beginning of this year, the total number of illegal immigrants detained has exceeded 3,500.

“This event is organized by the European Asylum Support Office, in which Latvia and Lithuania are Member States. It is a European asylum network. In fact, this is a measure organized and paid for by the European Asylum Support Office. If the situation is worse in our country, we can also expect similar assistance from other European countries,” said Pēteris Grūbe, head of the asylum-seeker accommodation centre “Mucenieki”.

For the time being, the situation on the border between Latvia and Belarus is relatively peaceful. This year, four cases of illegal crossings of the Latvian-Belarusian State border have been identified and a total of 27 third-country nationals, almost all of them Iraqi, have been detained. Border guards warn that the situation may change.

“Of course, risks are high, but the State Border Guard is following both the current situation in Lithuania and evaluating all possible risks on the border of Latvia-Belarus. In view of the increasing risks, we have introduced enhanced border surveillance, mobilized the State Border Guard resources to monitor the green border and requested support from the National Armed Forces, and every day [there are] 24 national guardsmen, as well as four Frontex experts with two vehicles,” said the Border Guard spokeswoman Kristīne Pētersone.

The Saeima is also aware that the situation on the border of Latvia-Belarus is likely to escalate, so MPs have started looking for solutions between sessions. 

"What we absolutely agree with the ministers on: this is a hybrid war instrument implemented on the part of the Belarusian regime with migration pressures on the external borders of the EU and NATO. We can't just watch and think we're protected. It is necessary to start preparing for a potential redirection of these flows to the Latvian border. This may not come true, because the Belarusian regime is unpredictable and we see increasing direct flights from Iraq," said Rihards Kols, National Alliance's Saeima deputy.

Unlike the border of Latvia-Russia, where a fence is installed, the part of Belarus is hardly equipped with physical barriers, the only obstacles are natural rivers, swamps. Therefore, border offenders are mostly detained domestically. Since Latvia has no readmission agreement with Iraq, they cannot be returned to the country of origin and the Belarusian services do not want to cooperate.

Proposals have already been made to announce a state of emergency in the border area or to adopt a special law allowing for the rapid construction of a physical border. A meeting of the Saeima Defence, Internal Affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee will be convened next week in order to seek solutions before the problem has grown.

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