UNHCR "closely following" border situation in Latvia

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said August 13 it was in touch with the Latvian government and monitoring developments at the border with Belarus.

Elisabeth Haslund, UNHCRs Spokesperson in the Nordics and Baltics told Rus.lsm.lv: "The UNHCR is concerned that the measures taken would completely remove the possibility for persons in need of protection to apply for asylum in the regions covered by the state of emergency. The set of measures were confirmed by the parliament on Thursday 12 August, and UNHCR is now undertaking an analysis of the decree, and we have agreed to continue the dialogue with the Latvian authorities, once our analysis of all elements is complete.

"It is a fundamental human right to access territory and be able to seek asylum, also for persons crossing the border irregularly. Managing and protecting a border is not incompatible with responding to the rights of asylum-seekers, and UNHCR has called on Latvia to live up to all international obligations," Haslund said.

"We are very concerned about the reports of pushbacks and violence used against persons attempting to cross the border, and call on all stakeholders to respect basic humanitarian principles, adhere to international and EU law and refrain from violence," she said.

"However, UNHCR does not have any first-hand information about the reported incidents, so we cannot comment directly on the reports. We are working to obtain and confirm the facts on the ground," Haslund said.

On July 27 the UNHCR said in a statement it was "increasingly concerned by the instrumentalization of refugees and migrants by states apparently to achieve political ends" but notably failed to used the words "Belarus" or "Lukashenko" at any point, or to indicate clearly that the Lukashenko regime's policy of sending third-country nationals illegally across the EU external border was what it was talking about.

 

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