Latvia shuts down one of two border checkpoints at Belarusian border

Silene border checkpoint at the Latvian-Belarusian border. July 2021.
Silene border checkpoint at the Latvian-Belarusian border. July 2021. Source: Google Street View

Citing ongoing migration pressure, the Latvian government has decided to close down Silene border checkpoint, one of the country's two checkpoints along its eastern border with Belarus, the Latvian media reported Tuesday.

Staff from the now-closed border checkpoint in Southeastern Latvia will be redeployed to guard the state border itself, which Guntis Pujats, chief of Latvia's State Border Guard (VRS), described as facing "probably the most tense [situation] in these three years since 2021" last week due to mounting migration pressure.

The pressure of illegal immigration has tripled in a short period of time, the annotation of the relevant draft regulation states according to Latvian public broadcaster LSM.

Over the past six days, VRS officials have prevented attempts by a total of 894 people to illegally cross the Latvian-Belarusian border, bringing the total for September to 1,773 attempts. This has followed a combined 1,615 such attempts to cross the border illegally in August.

According to Latvian border guard chiefs, it has been difficult to deter incoming migrants as they move in large groups of 50-60 people. The majority of them attempt to cross into Latvia in places where there is no border fence, such as at a narrow river crossing, but they also attempt to cross barbed wire as well.

The Belarusian side simply drops people off right at the barbed wire delineating the Latvian border and won't let them back into Belarus anymore, they added.

Latvia will continue to operate its only other border checkpoint  — the Paternieki border checkpoint, east of Silene — in order to facilitate freight transport as well as urgent work-related, humanitarian or force majeure-related travel.

Belarus' border states Latvia, Lithuania and Poland were faced with a migration crisis in 2021 as well, when at the behest of Belarusian authorities, thousands of people, primarily from the Middle East and Africa, began crossing Belarus' western border. All three countries rapidly deployed reinforcements at their borders in order to send back migrants who sought to cross the border illegally.

Poland and Lithuania have already built their border fences; Latvia's new government has promised to complete their own fence by the end of the year.

Last week, the VRS announced amid mounting migration pressure at its border with Belarus that it had called in members of the Latvian National Armed Forces (NBS) for backup and asked the government to shut down the Silene border checkpoint in the country's southeast.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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