Latvia is prepared for possible migrant influx from Belarus, say experts

Migration  policy makers told Latvian Radio September 23 that Latvia is preparing for likely influx of migrants from Belarus, where the political situation has intensified.

Chairman of the Saeima Citizenship, Migration and Cohesion Commission, Ritvars Jansons (National Alliance) said that Latvia should now prepare for a flow of people from Belarus. This is one of the reasons why Latvia refused to take in migrants from the fire-devastated camp in Greece, Lesbos island.

“We have to take into account that we cannot predict what the developments in Belarus will be. We need to be prepared that there could also be a spontaneous flow of asylum seekers.

And in this case, we, as a European Union Member State, are the immediate external border of the European Union with Belarus. And it is our responsibility to accommodate these asylum seekers, if there is such a flow,” Jansons said.

He said that during the last week the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had issued 90 visas to migrants from Belarus: “In this case, they may not be asylum seekers in the direct sense that they come to the border and ask for asylum, but they shall, with the help of the diplomatic service of the Republic of Latvia, settle visas in order to be legally resident in the Republic of Latvia. And they are indeed citizens of Belarus who are politically persecuted.”

Head researcher at Providus think-tank on migration and integration, Agnese Lāce, pointed out that, in the current situation with Belarus, it is important for Latvia to think about what solidarity we would like to see in the European Union. Consequently, the solutions provided for in the European Pact for Migration – solidarity and mutual support – could be more in Latvia's interest than it was in the past.

“The ongoing negotiations on how the new solidarity mechanisms could look like, including administrative, material assistance... There, the proportion and national responsibility are determined according to a number of criteria. And one of them is also the number of asylum seekers already in the country.

Therefore, in this case, if there is an increase in the number of asylum seekers from Belarus, then no one will oblige us to take migrants from the southern European border.

Because the responsibility that will fall on Latvia at that moment will be enough, possibly even excessive, and at that point we might want to call for support from other countries of the European Union,” explained Lāce.

LSM reported that at the beginning of September, a devastating fire destroyed Greece's largest asylum-seeker camp on Lesbos island. Around 13 000 asylum seekers from over 70 countries, including Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen and others, became homeless. Latvia refused to take in these migrants but provided humanitarian aid.

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