Authorities: Migrant situation quiet on Estonia-Latvia border

Border at Valga, Estonia, and its twin town, Valka, Latvia.
Border at Valga, Estonia, and its twin town, Valka, Latvia. Source: ERR

One Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) spokesperson working the Estonia-Latvia border in Valga says the influx of migrants from Belarus into Lithuania, and also Latvia, is no cause for concern in Estonia at present.

Illegal migrants apprehended at the border will not at this stage be sent back, Rene Lipping, head of field operations of the Valga patrol group, said, referring to the current border situation in Estonia as "calm".

"Of course, we have places where we can accommodate them in case a larger influx occurs," Lipping added. "We don't have any reason for panic. Recent days show that in Lithuania, too, the influx has declined."

Estonia does not share a border with Belarus and the two countries nearest points lie well over 100km apart, as the crow flies. However, both Latvia and Lithuania border with Belarus toe their east, and are in the Schengen Zone of free movement, while Latvia and Estonia share a long land border.

Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) personnel are conducting checks on foreign-registered vehicles arriving at the Latvia-Estonia border, with special attention paid to non-EU, larger vehicles.

"Larger buses, vans, station wagons enabling to transport more people [are being checked] to prevent anyone providing a service of transporting people through Estonia," Lipping said.

The patrols are mostly a precautionary measure, however, and no fences or infrastructure have been installed at this point.

Patrols have been doubled in frequency, however, and are making themselves more visible, Lipping said.

Over 4,000 people have crossed the border illegally from Belarus into Lithuania since mid-summer, in a development referred to by Estonia's leaders as hybrid warfare on the part of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.

Crossings into Latvia have recently surged, with nearly 30 apprehended in one day, towards the end of last week, and Latvia has been weighing up declaring an emergency situation on the issue.

Poland, which also borders Belarus, has seen an influx of migrants from Belarus; mostly individuals originally from the Middle- and Near-East, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.

In Lithuania, whose capital, Vilnius, lies only 30km from the border, the influx has petered out in recent days, however. Border guards have been given authority to turn people back at the border, and according to reports have been offering €300 to individuals to help them return to their country of origin.

Estonia has its second batch of border guard personnel, to relieve the first contingent, southwards to Lithuania, and has also provided tents, barbed wire and other items to Lithuanian authorities.

Estonian border guards often apprehend people illegally entering the country from over its eastern border, with the Russian Federation, predominantly in the far southeast of the country. Most of the rest of the eastern border is made up of water courses, though in one recent case a Turkmen national was returned to Russia, where he had been living for some years, after swimming across the Narva River, into Estonia.

Rene Lipping says practices and policies may be adapted as the situation evolves.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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