Closure of Balkan refugee routes could put pressure on Baltics

An internal memo leaked from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs warns that with the closure of Balkan refugee routes another wave of refugees could arrive within the next few months, reported LSM via The Local

The memo warns of a “a perfect political storm” likely to hit Europe within the next six months, bringing with it increased activity at Norway’s Arctic border, and potentially at the Baltic states' borders as well.

“The dynamics of the continent and the closure of the Balkan routes can quickly result in increased pressure on Storskog or Finland and the Baltics in the coming months,” the confidential memo said. 

The leaked memo seems somewhat alarming as it notes that “the Norwegian psyche is likely not mentally prepared for the full gravity of the migration crisis."

Previously Finnish president Sauli Niinistö said that if Turkey closes its borders or limits the refugee flow, it might shift to Russia, making it the "second Turkey", while Finland and the Baltics would become the second Balkans in the scenario. 

Even more recently, Estonian MEP Urmas Paet said that in addition to established routes, refugees are starting to migrate to Europe via a new path through Russia.

"So far, refugees that have traveled through Russia have traveled on mainly to Norway and Sweden, however we cannot guarantee that their paths will not bring them to Estonia and Latvia as well," Paet told ERR.

A total of 1768 people have applied for asylum in Latvia from 1998 to 2015, according to data by the Citizenship and Migration Affairs Office. A tiny percentage of them have been granted asylum.

Latvia has agreed to take in a total of 531 refugees from Italy and Greece, with the possibility that number could rise to a maximum of 776 if agreement can be reached with other EU member states. 

The first six refugees - two families with one child each - arrived in Latvia from Syria and Eritrea within the scheme early February.

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