Ukrainian refugee stream down to a trickle on Latvian–Russian border

This week marks one year since Russia's invasion of Ukraine. During the year, nearly eight million people in Ukraine have been forced to leave their homes and seek asylum in the countries of the European Union, including Latvia. At the beginning of the war, the Latvian-Russian Terehova border point was crossed by around a thousand refugees in the day. At present, the flow of refugees has decreased significantly, Latvian Radio reported on February 20.

“I'm going to go on to Warsaw. I had worked in one company there before, I called the boss, he said to go to him,” Alexei, after half an hour of checking documents at the Grebneva border crossing point of Latvia-Russia, along with the other approximately 30 passengers on the bus, was brought to the point where four vans were waiting to lead them further.

“I'm driving from Melitopol. It's Zaporizhzhia County. There the so-called “Russian peace” prevails. The referendum was illegal. I went to the Czech Republic. To known people. There's nothing to do in Melitopol."

“We're from Kherson County. We're three days on our way. We travel from Kahovka to Warsaw. We were bombed every day at home. We spent a year saving money for the road so we could leave."

A number of people are waiting for relatives to come from Russia.

“I've been living and working in Latvia for three months. I want to go home, but now I'm waiting for my father-in-law, mother-in-law, and grandfather to cross the border. I am worried most about my grandfather to endure. Still in Ukraine, when I brought him to the doctor three kilometers away, he was bad already. I hope he will endure.”

When they pile up their small luggage in vans, the refugees go to the volunteer organization's “Your Friends” car and the big tent where they can drink tea and coffee, get a sandwich and warm soup. Laura, a volunteer of the Society “Your Friends”, has worked in Grebnev since September last year. She notes that refugees mostly use Latvia as a transit country, but this does not mean that they do not need help here when they cross the border.

“We can look at trends since September 29. The first trend relates to the number of people. At the moment, the numbers are falling, but the figures are still stable, people cross the border and need help," Laura says. "Another trend is the state of the people because these people have been in occupation for the longest. Consequently, they are more nervous and more depressed.”

There is a similar situation in Terehova border point. Chief of Terehova point of the State Border Guard, Aleksejs Kakauļins, notes that the highest number of refugees was in the spring of last year.

“On March 1, it was about a thousand a day. [..] The flow reduced closer to the summer. There were fewer people – around 500 per day, and to date, the figure is between 70 and 150 Ukrainian citizens per day," Kakauļins said. "If we are talking about the total number, around 178 thousand people have entered Terehova border control point. In total, around 200 thousand Ukrainian citizens could have entered Latvia through Terehova."

Over the past year, around 224 thousand Ukrainian citizens entered Latvia since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, according to information gathered by the State Border Guard. There are currently 35,300 Ukrainian refugees registered in Latvia.

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