Eastern border to be reinforced

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Latvian Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis said Thursday his country was planning to reinforce its 270 kilometre border with Russia in order to stop illegal border crossings.

Speaking on the LR1 public radio channel, Kolovskis said: “The possibility of building a fence along certain stretches of the border is being discussed but without appropriate technologies, fences would fail to stop the flow of refugees.”

That technology would involve clearing a 12-meter-wide border zone to allow off-road border patrol vehicles to get quick access and other measures such as automatic sensors to clearly mark where the border lies in thick forest and along watercourses, he said, with local communities possibly taking part in the clean-up operation.

The total cost of the work would be around €21m Kozlovskis said.

Latvia has a 214 km border with Russia and a 172 km border with Belarus. Its other neighbors - Estonia and Lithuania are fellow European Union and Schengen member states.  

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Daiga Holma told LSM the measures were intended to help prevent border crossings by illegal immigrants and should not be considered to have a military or defensive purpose.

“There will not be a solid wall or even a solid fence - rather it would made of wire or similar materials - and it certainly will not extend the whole length of the border with Russia,” Holma said.

“Fences will be constructed only in areas regarded as high risk by Border Guards, for example in areas close to border crossing posts where in the past people may have tried to go around rather than through the correct border crossing,” she added.

Latvia has a persistent problem with illegal immigrants showing up on its Eastern border. Many are Vietnamese trafficked via Russia then dumped in Latvia, sometimes under the impression they are in Germany.

On August 24-25 alone, border guards tracked down 14 Vietnamese illegal entrants and two suspected Russian people smugglers inside Latvian territory.

The number of illegal Vietnamese arrivals in Latvia is now more than 300 this year.

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