A new Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) unit is being sent to the southernmost Baltic State, Lithuania, as part of cooperation project which monitors that country's border with Belarus. Since summer, the border has been facing migratory pressure as Minsk has been engaging in what the EU has roundly condemned as hybrid warfare and the exploitation of vulnerable individuals.
Interior minister Kristian Jaani (Center) said that: "We are an important cooperation partner with the Lithuanians in their fight against the migratory pressure caused by Belarus, and we've obtained excellent knowledge and experience from this endeavor. We've offered similar assistance to Poland, too."
"There is currently no migratory pressure in the direction of Estonia, but we've been making consistent preparations to tackle any growth in attempts at irregular border crossing. We mustn't forget that this politically-led irregular migration doesn't just constitute a clear security threat to Poland and Lithuania, but to the entire EU. This means it needs to be resolved in cooperation with the member states," Jaani went on.
The new unit, dubbed Estpol 5, comprises 17 police officers, including a drone team and two dog handlers, and is the fifth consecutive PPA unit to be sent to Lithuania since the simmer, each on a monthly rotation.
The first three units consisted of ten officers, while the new unit and its immediate predecessor have been boosted to 17 as noted.
The unit's main tasks will be immigrant detention center in cooperation with their Lithuanian colleagues, and also, via the drone team, monitoring the Lithuania-Belarus border section to help prevent irregular immigration to Lithuania from Belarus.
Reet Zeisig, the PPA's head of the bureau for international cooperation said that the benefits worked both ways, since the PPA personnel already sent to Lithuania gained valuable experience in the prevention of irregular migration, which they can then take back to Estonia with them and share with colleagues.
"This cooperation has also increased our confidence that help will be provided to us as well if a similar situation emerges," Zeisig said.
Estpol5 is assisting Lithuania on the basis of a bilateral agreement between Estonia and Lithuania.
Largely ignored by the western media, significant numbers of migrants started crossing the border illegally from Belarus into Lithuania in mid-summer, with the phenomenon spreading to Latvia and Poland, both of which border Belarus.
Evidence has come to light of the migrants, predominantly of Iraqi origin, being flown into Minsk, driven to the border, and induced to cross, by Alexander Lukashenko's security forces.
Much of the current pressure falls on Poland's border rather than Lithuania or Latvia's, while Estonian President Alar Karis, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform), defense minister Kalle Laanet (Reform), foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) and interior minister Kristian Jaani, quoted above, have been united in their condemnation of the recent developments there.
Estonia does not share a border with Belarus, but has a long land border with Latvia. A handful of cases of illegal immigration involving people who crossed into the EU from Belarus have been detected since then, with individuals generally attempting to head north to Finland.
Editor: Andrew Whyte