PPA send 10 officers to Lithuania-Belarus border

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Police and Border Guard officers in Narva. Source: Sergei Stepanov/ERR

The Police and Border Guard Board's (PPA) ESTPOL5 police unit will be sent to Lithuania on Wednesday to help monitor the county's border with Belarus after more than 1,000 migrants have attempted to cross the border in recent weeks.

Egert Belitšev, head of the PPA's Border Guard Department, said Lithuania declared a state of emergency last week.

"As the risk of illegal migration on the Lithuanian-Belarusian border will remain high in the near future, with the approval of the minister of the interior, the PPA will send an ESTPOL5 team to Lithuania," Belitšev said.

The team of 10 will initially be in Lithuania for a month. The PPA said their specific tasks will become clear when they arrive but Lithuania needs Estonia's assistance in monitoring the border, for example in drone surveillance.

 "Assistance to Lithuania is part of the Estonian-Lithuanian bilateral cooperation agreement. We will support Lithuania in resolving the crisis, but any such operation will also provide our people with a valuable experience. The contribution to general international co-operation is not insignificant either, that if Estonia needs help, we also have allies who support us when we are in a difficult situation," said Belitšev.  

He said that many of the immigrants are planning to move on to western Europe, mostly Germany, but the easing of coronavirus travel restrictions may also put pressure on Estonia.

"Once movement between Finland-Estonia, Finland-Sweden or entering Finland or Sweden becomes easier, then the whole flow of migration can easily change," Belitšev said.

In the past, the PPA has carried out border control and surveillance tasks in Greece, Romania, Hungary, Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, Slovenia, as well as in Latvia and Lithuania, and in Poland and Finland.

Lithuania is currently experiencing an unprecedented increase in irregular migration, national broadcaster LRT wrote. Lithuanian officials believe that Belarusian authorities are involved in migrant smuggling. So far this year, more than 1,200 refugees have crossed the Lithuania border with Belarus and claimed asylum which is more than 10 times the number in 2020.

Talking about the political situation, security expert Erkki Koort told ERR there is no doubt that increased migration to Lithuania is organized by the Belarusian authorities.

"Belarus is taking revenge for [Lithuania] supporting the Belarusian opposition, and this is one way to make another country suffer by non-military means," Koort said.

He said it is difficult to predict how long Belarus will continue to put pressure on Lithuania in this manner.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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