Flow of illegal migrants turning tragic

Latvia’s ‘fateful’ Daugava River claimed the life of an unidentified 20-year old Vietnamese man this fall, while the state's borderzones with Russia and Belarus have seen a rise in the number of people trying to cross into the European Union this year.

As Latvian Television (LTV) investigative news program De Facto reported Sunday, criminal investigators are looking into a case of human trafficking where a group of four Vietnamese men were forced to cross the river clinging to the side of a boat. The deceased individual was apparently drowned in the attempt when forced to disengage by the rower, allegedly a citizen of Russia.

According to Border Guard Criminal Investigations chief Guntis Pujats, the body was discovered in an advanced state of decay and was buried at a temporary gravesite in Daugavpils, 7,000 kilometers from the man’s presumed homeland.

Vietnamese comprise a significant portion of economic refugees seeking better living conditions and opportunities in Russia. While evading Russian authorities, many of them continue their press toward western Europe.

Those who manage to get past Border Guard officers look to destinations like Poland and Germany, where underground sweatshops are said to be employing them in schemes further meant to extort their money and labor while they remain unable to legalize their presence there.

The Ukraine-Russia conflict has forced this flow northward to the Baltic borders of Europe in significant numbers, says the Border Guard.

While the number of refugees evading detection cannot be estimated, those detained further on in member states like Lithuania and Poland are first returned to Latvia, the country from which they entered illegally. Latvia must then process their cases and eventually return them to their country of origin.

Most of the refugees caught have been from Vietnam and Afghanistan.

Border Guard officials are concerned that despite the rapid increase in the number of detained illegal migrants this year, reports from residents have fallen significantly. This could mean that locals suffering from a dearth of economic opportunity are being lured into the human trafficking trade, risking their own criminal liability not to mention the lives of the persons they are being paid to ‘assist’ in their flight. 

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