A contingent of 16 Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) personnel is heading to Lithuania to assist in that country's border patrol work. The unit is the largest of its kind to be deployed in the southernmost Baltic State since a migration crisis engineered by the Belarusian regime has seen thousands of people cross that country's border with Lithuania, Latvia and Poland, all European Union member states, since mid-summer.
Interior minister Kristian Jaani (Center) said the move highlighted solidarity between the two countries in combating illegal migration, which he called a type of hybrid warfare on the part of Alexander Lukashenko's Belarus.
Jaani said: "Working together, we can successfully address the situation caused by the hybrid attack. It is very important that we have the possibility to help Lithuania on the ground, and I believe that our people will bring back a worthwhile experience," adding that Estonia's contribution is highly valued in Lithuania.
The deployment is the fourth of its kind, and also the largest so far, at 16 members – previous units had numbered around 19.
Reet Zeisig, head of the PPA's bureau for international cooperation, said that: "It is very important for us to help friends in distress as long as this help is needed, because in doing this we are doing everything we can in order for us to be helped too if necessary."
"Estonian police officers who have worked so far in Lithuania have gained rare experience in controlling mass migration and managing its effects, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with colleagues who share the same values for the sake of common goals," Zeisig added.
The PPA units have been in on a month's rotation in Lithuania, with the new unit no exception to that.
As with its predecessors, the fresh unit will be tasked with aerial surveillance of a section of the Lithuanian border, and part of the team will also start performing guard and patrol duties at migrant detention and accommodation centers, BNS reports.
The contingent will include drone operators and two dog handlers, the PPA says.
The first PPA deployment, dubbed ESTPOL5, arrived in Lithuania on July 7.
The deployments are based on a bilateral agreement between the two countries.
Estonia's leadership, including outgoing President Kersti Kaljulaid, have consistently referred to the migratory pressure as both a form of hybrid warfare and an exploitation of vulnerable people by the Lukashenko regime.
Many of the migrants hail from Iraq and other middle-eastern countries, as well as North African and sub-Saharan African nations, and in many cases had been ferried to Belarus' western border with the three EU states by security forces, and in some cases physically goaded over the border. Others have been stranded in the border strip no-man's land on the frontier; at least one death has been reported in the media from among these people.
Editor: Andrew Whyte