An Estonian Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) team deployed to Latvia to aid in border surveillance there has stopped over 130 illegal migrants from entering that country from Belarus, in just over a week, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported on Thursday.
The unit, dubbed Estpol-8, has been in Latvia several weeks on rotation, and is nearing the end of its time there.
While Estonia, unlike Latvia and Lithuania, does not share a border with Belarus, the migrant crisis precipitated by the Aleksander Lukashenko regime in summer 2021 is still fresh in the memory, while significant numbers of people attempting to cross into Latvia and the EU illegally remain.
Interior Minister Lauri Läänemets (SDE) visited a snowy Latvian-Belarusian border on Thursday, and said the set-up helped both Estonia and Latvia in terms of aid and of know-how.
"One is aspects relate to how [illegal migrants] cross the border. Another is that when they do come over, they tend to move very quickly into the hinterland," the minister said.
"So finding these people – we're not talking about just a few kilometers here, but more like about 20 kilometers – and apprehending them, well Estonian men and women here are doing a lot of good work," he went on
AK was reporting from Kaplava, around 40km East of the city of Daugavpils, Southeastern Latvia, and a few kilometers from the Belarusian border
Estpol-8 members utilize drones in the course of their work, taking advantage of a no-fly zone put in place by Latvian authorities close to the border, in force to year-end.
Estpol- 8 team leader Nikita Golovin told AK that: "We have some very good drones, and very good tracking dogs, who have already been able to excellently track down illegal entrants over the past eight days. Latvian colleagues admire the good tech and equipment we have to hand, too."
The Estonian contingent as a whole has been in the area for nearly six weeks now, across three border stations; in just over a week, they have apprehended 138 illegal border crossers coming into Latvia, and have prevented them from doing so.
Golovin said the methods of entry were not particularly sophisticated, and mostly involved cutting border fencing or wire, in one case cutting surveillance camera connections.
Latvian border guards put the illegal immigrant interception rate at 95 percent.
The Estpol-8 stint, the third of its kind, is coming to an end soon, but will be replaced by a fourth team from Estonia.
Latvian border guard representatives told AK they would be to see Estonian personnel there for as long as the Estonians want to come.
Vadims Grickovs, who heads up the regional Latvian border guard authority, also expressed gratitude for the Estonian contribution, joined by similar deployments from Lithuania to the South.
Today, Friday, interior ministers of many EU countries and from further afield, including from Ukraine, are gatherhing in Vilnius to discuss crisis response across a variety of different scenarios, matching in the civil sphere a harmonization of approaches seen between NATO members in the defense sphere, Läänemets said.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael
Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Ragnar Kond.