Latvia promises easier entry for Belarusians

In response to the events in Belarus, the procedures by which citizens of Belarus may receive a visa for entry to Latvia have been greatly relaxed, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs August 24.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (ĀM) refrained from explaining why a visa was not received by former official of the Belarusian Investigation Committee Andrei Ostapovich, who hoped to obtain political asylum in Latvia but was detained by the Russian authorities in Pskov.

Ostapovich wrote in his resignation that he would not enforce criminal orders. He also called on the Belarusian people not to give up and to face down the dictatorship of President Alexander Lukashenko. On 21 August, he was detained by the Russian authorities in Pskov and returned to Belarus.

According to Ostapovich's lawyer, his client waited in Pskov, but he did not receive a visa to enter Latvia, where he wanted political asylum.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs still does not comment on the case, but points out that the procedures specified in the law for the person to request asylum, including political asylum, provide that he or she may do so upon arrival at the State border. The border guard shall be contacted there or in the transit zone of the airport with an application.

When an application is submitted, the State Border Guard identifies this person, fingerprints are taken, his or her documents are evaluated, and an initial interview is conducted, in which the motives for requesting asylum and all basic information are clarified, said in the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs.

The information is further assessed by the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (PMLP) and others, including the security authorities.

There is a three-month wait for the final decision, but during this time, the asylum seeker does not have to return to the regime from which he/she fled.

The person can be housed in an accommodation center for asylum seekers. “As soon as a person has crossed the border of Latvia, he is safe,” said PMLP.

The PMLP also said that no one has yet appeared on the border from Belarus and asked for asylum.

It appears that Ostapovich also traveled a different way – not asked for asylum on the border, but tried to obtain a visa for entry into Latvia.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed that the procedures for obtaining visas in Belarus have been eased and accelerated at the moment, and the arrival of a consular or diplomatic mission, the receipt of a visa should no longer be a matter of days but hours.

On the case of Ostapovich, the Ministry does not comment. It is true that the visa for entry to Latvia does not guarantee the escape from Russia or Belarus.

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