Illegal migration veering north

The war in eastern Ukraine has pushed a greater flow of illegal migrants across Latvia’s borders, most of them groups of Vietnamese persons trying to get through to Poland, State Border Guard representative Mareks Petrušins told Latvian Radio program Labrīt Wednesday.

This trend has been noted already since 2007, but for the past year, the usual channels through Ukraine and Belarus have increasingly shifted north due to the pro-Russian separatist war that has been fomented in the Donbass region since Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Though the Vietnamese have made up the fastest growing group of illegal migrants noted by the Border Guard, there are also many trying to get to Europe from other countries in Asia, North Africa and the Middle East. Many of them are heading for Poland, where a sizable Vietnamese community has grown up since Soviet times.

Petrušins said it was important to catch the organizers of the human trafficking networks channeling these people through. Last year 19 such traffickers were detained, 17 of whom were working with groups of Vietnamese. They have been citizens of various countries, including Latvia, Russia, Estonia, Tajikistan, Kirghizstan and others.

So far this year 60 persons have tried to cross illegally into Latvia, 20 of whom have already been sent back to their countries of origin. However the scale of the illegal migration problem is only expected to grow this year.

The flow of illegal migrants through Latvia has also turned tragic in past incidents. On Wednesday morning the Border Guard reported finding the corpse of a man holding a Syrian passport in the woods near the northeastern provincial border town of Alūksne, appearing to have died within the past 24 hours.

It was recently reported that detention centers for the illegal migrants held in Latvia are rapidly approaching full capacity.

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