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Latvia is afraid of migrants from Belarus

Latvian authorities are concerned about the increasing number of migrants trying to cross the border with Belarus and have called on the military to help border guards, according to ABC News.

Over the past 24 hours, 103 people have been detained for attempting to illegally cross the Latvian-Belarusian border, the Latvian State Border Guard has said. Only seven people were allowed into Latvia, a 1.8-million-strong European Union and NATO country, on humanitarian grounds. Most of those wishing to enter Latvia are from Africa and the Middle East, particularly Afghanistan and Syria.

The number of people turned away at the Belarus border has exceeded 100 on several days since the end of August — a substantially higher daily figure than earlier in the year, officials said. Nearly 900 migrants were stopped from crossing over last week alone. This year’s cumulative figure is almost 7,800 up from 5.826 in full year 2022.

Crowds of migrants, including from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, flooded onto Belarus’ border with Poland in 2021, where they were forced to spend several weeks. EU authorities have accused Lukashenko of facilitating the illegal border crossing in retaliation for sanctions imposed after the election, which the West has called rigged. Lukashenko denies encouraging migration to Europe.

Due to the recent surge in illegal migration, Pujats said Latvia’s border guard was proposing to close the Silene crossing point on the border with Belarus that is also the EU’s external border.

Defence Minister Inara Murniece told the Latvian broadcaster that the government had decided to reschedule a local military exercise and instead ask the Latvian army to send soldiers to assist border guards at the eastern border with Belarus.

In addition, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland – all NATO members – have signaled that if the situation continues to deteriorate, they reserve the right to completely close their borders with Belarus.

Lithuania said it would send 20 border guards to Latvia, its northern neighbor, to tackle the increasing flows of migrants from Belarus. Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite told reporters on Tuesday:

“We see that Latvia is facing a serious challenge right now. The traffic and the attempts to enter have increased significantly. Considering that Latvia has not yet secured its state border with a physical barrier and surveillance systems … it is difficult for them to manage this process.”

Poland plans to deploy an additional 2,000 troops on its border with Belarus, twice as many as requested by the country’s border agency, amid growing fears of illegal migration.

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