Anti-immigrant organization comes to fore over refugee crisis

Take note – story published 8 years ago

As Europe is being tested by an ongoing migration crisis, the 'Tēvijas Sargi' (Fatherland Guards), an anti-immigrant organization with a paramilitary slant, is attracting more followers, with a Latvian MP apparently among its supporters, reported Latvian Television's De Facto Sunday. 

The organization has around a hundred to two hundred members and does not shy away from anti-immigrant rhetoric. It describes itself as for those interested in "militarism and Latvia's military history".

It vies for new members on social networks with slogans such as "It'll not be like Cologne in here, it'll be like Sparta" and "If you're not among those who say 'welcome' to immigrants, we want to see you don boxing gloves at our workouts."

A particularly alarming poster features a photography of bullets, paired with the headline "The medicine against occupants."

Tēvijas Sargi representative Jānis Sils told De Facto that the posters were used as ads, and so had to command attention, however allowing that "none of the pictures we've used is in opposition to our views".

Similarly to the 'Soldiers of Odin' in Scandinavia, Tēvijas Sargi's stated aim is to protect society from the perceived threats posed by immigration - likely meaning the refugees arriving in Latvia - by embarking on night patrols characteristic of vigilante groups. 

There could be grounds for concern of the organization being backed by politicians. Egils Helmanis, a martial arts expert and board member of the National Alliance, a conservative coalition party, had reportedly been seen among Tēvijas Sargi and himself admitted he had trained members of the organization.

"I like that Latvian boys are exercising and strengthening their spirits, however our thoughts are different on the refugee matter. [..] I have seen both Somalia and Afghanistan. I have seen people suffering there," he said, putting distance between himself and the group.

The youth department of the National Alliance has also invited its members to join Tēvijas Sargi. However, National Alliance co-chairman and faction chairman Raivis Dzintars was reserved over the party's ties to the organization, saying that while the goals of Tēvijas Sargi correspond to those of National Alliance "to a great degree", the methods and means used by political parties are different. 

However, several National Alliance MPs and officials have in the past attended anti-immigrant rallies organized by Tēvijas Sargi.

While National Alliance MP Jānis Dombrava, known for espousing anti-immigration views, was quick to jump to support the organization in response to the De Facto story, tweeting: "De Facto wanted to discredit Tēvijas Sargi, however it turned out to be a great advertisement. Thank you for that!"

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