Ombudsman calls Amnesty's claim on Latvia's treatment of migrants deceitful

The statement by Amnesty International, which calls on Latvia not to extend the state of emergency at the Belarus border and claims that Latvia has ill-treated and even tortured people at the Belarus border, is false and misrepresented, Ombudsman Juris Jansons said on Latvian Television August 10.

At the end of July, Amnesty International published a statement on Latvia's alleged ill-treatment and torture of illegal migrants on the Belarusian border, claiming threats of violence and unjust treatment of refugees. 

“What they have published about Latvia in their report is not clear to me at all. What is in their report is actually lying,” the Ombudsman said, pointing out that Latvia has justified its position in the past, so Amnesty International's statement is “quite distorted.”

As regards the organization's accusations of not taking all asylum seekers, claiming that “as Latvia welcomed more than 34,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine, migrants and refugees at the Belarus border - mainly from Iraq and Afghanistan - including children, were left to fend for themselves in freezing temperatures in the forest.,” Jansons said that in this case the organization lacks facts and evidence, and it does not reflect the real situation on the Belarus border in its statement.

“As regards illegal migrants in Belarus, if we look at international law, there is no real reason to ask for international protection. Why? Because they have come to the country, Belarus, with legal documents. So if they want to come to the European Union, they can do it in a legal way, not through the illegal crossing of borders,” Jansons said.

On the other hand, in relation to the accusations of torture of refugees and migrants on the border and the cruel treatment of Latvian law enforcement authorities against these people, the Ombudsman said that the Ombudsman's Office did not have information on the fact that the refugees were tortured.

“My colleagues and I have been on the border. Colleagues are regularly on monitoring visits to the border and at checkpoints where legal Ukrainians also arrive. Let us say that our services actually do the best, as far as possible,” Jansons said.

The Ombudsman also expressed confusion as to where Amnesty International had gathered information about what was happening on the Latvian border with Belarus and the treatment of migrants. “There have also been situations where border guards are insulted that they use some electric shocks and so on, but they don't have such,” added Jansons.

Jansons also said that the announcement of Amnesty is “a pretty old past and not up-to-date”, and he had consulted the foreign and interior ministers of Latvia and sent a letter to “one ambassador” regarding it.

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