A second Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) team is set to travel to Lithuania as part of Estonia's aid package towards dealing with the migrant crisis there, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Wednesday. The team, numbering around a dozen, replaces one which traveled to Lithuania last month; both are dubbed ESTPOL5.
Over 4,000 illegal migrants from countries such as Iraq have crossed from Belarus to Lithuania in recent weeks according to estimates. The development follows a souring of relations over the past year between Lithuania, the EU as a whole and the west on the one side, and Alexander Lukashenko's regime in Belarus, whose border lies just 30km from Vilnius, on the other.
PPA spokesperson Reet Zeisig told ERR that: "An average of one hundred illegal border crossings are apprehended on the Lithuanian border every day, many of them via the help of ESTPOL5 members. Since the pressure there is expected to increase, the PPA will continue to assist Lithuania."
The ESTPOL5 Team is due to head for the southernmost Baltic State, whose eastern border abuts on to Belarus, Thursday, while 10 PPA personnel who had been deployed there earlier will be returning to Estonia Saturday.
Janek Pinta, field manager at the Pärnu PPA department, said he considers the ESTPOL5 team's role to be a great responsibility and one which can involve knowledge-sharing.
Pinta told AK that: "We will definitely share our experience on how to do these activities and help them in every way."
As to the question of experience with illegal migrants and related activity, Pinta said that the team had this: "Since the group I am leading is made up of 10 members from different regions – the northern, eastern, southern and western prefectures, from different fields, and I think we have some very good competence, which we can put into practice and mediate."
Interior minister Kristian Jaani (Center) told AK that Estonia's border defense starts now, in Lithuania.
"This is also the reason Estonia has been actively offering assistance to Lithuania. In addition to personnel, we have also sent tents with furnishings and air con to Lithuania," Jaani said.
The original ESTPOL5 team went to Lithuania on July 7 on the basis of a bilateral agreement. So far, the team has primarily been involved in aerial surveillance via drone, guarding migrant camps and otherwise patrolling the border.
The second team will stay in Lithuania for one month, and is likely to be replaced by another in a month's time, Janek Pinta said, adding that he does not think the situation on the Lithuania-Belarus border will be resolved any time soon.
"We hope from the heart that it will be, but the harsh reality is I don't think it is likely to be resolved any time soon," Pinta told AK.
The second ESTPOL5 team will have with it two drones, Pinta said.
Editor: Andrew Whyte