More migrants attempting to cross Latvian border from Belarus
There has been a rise in the number of migrants attempting to cross the Latvian border from Belarus in recent days. It is too early to say if Latvia has become the focus of Belarus' "hybrid attack".
Last weekend, 167 people attempted to cross the border between the two countries, Latvian public broadcaster LSM reported. The figures have been rising since December 13.
"They come with scissors to cut the wire [fence]. One group was wearing long fishing boots and walking across the lake. Our neighboring country is doing its best to send illegal border crossers across the Latvian border," Guntis Pujas, head of the Latvian State Border Guardd, told ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera" on Tuesday.
Pujats said the reason people may be attempting to cross into Latvia is that it has become harder to enter Lithuania and Poland.
"Now they are trying to put Latvia to the test," said Pujats, adding they are unlikely to succeed.
Latvia and Belarus share a border that is approximately 173 kilometers long. Over the past month, 37 kilometers of barbed wire fence have been installed at the easiest crossing points.
Latvian Interior Minister Marija Golubeva said work is also starting on a permanent border barrier.
She said it is currently very difficult to judge whether Latvia has become the main target of the Belarusian hybrid attack, or whether some groups of people have moved or have been moved closer, LSM reported.
Since the announcement of the state of emergency on the Latvia-Belarus border on August 10, the State Border Guard has prevented 3,309 persons from crossing the border.
Migrants have been trying to cross into Latvia, Lithuania and Poland since the summer. Officials have said the Minsk regime is responsible for facilitating and enabling irregular migration, calling it "hybrid aggression" against the European Union.
Migrants, mostly from Iraq, started to arrive after leader Alexander Lukashenko threatened to send "migrants and drugs" to Europe in response to EU sanctions on Belarus.
Lithuania and Poland have seen the biggest number of attempted entries so far. Estonia has not been affected as it does not share a border with Belarus, but officials are aware traffickers take migrants to Scandinavia through Estonia.
Additionally, Estonia has sent help to Lithuania and Poland.
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Editor: Helen Wright