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8 Indian citizens detained after illegally crossing Estonian border

Estonian-Russian border.
Estonian-Russian border. Source: Mirjam Mõttus/ERR

Eight Indian citizens were detained by the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) in south Estonia after illegally crossing the border from Russia on Thursday (December 22).

The migrants crossed the green border, a weakly protected area, in Setomaa, the PPA said in a statement on Friday.

Local residents spotted a group of dark-skinned people near Veretinä village ar around 8:30 a.m. and the PPA apprehended a group of eight men at Masluva village, approximately 1.5 km from the border.

They were then taken to the police station in Võru for questioning. Their documents showed the men had arrived in Russia via an airport in Moscow.

The PPA contacted the Russian border guard to find ways to return the men to Russia. Negotiations are ongoing.

Meelis Saarepuu, head of PPA's Southern Border Guard Office, said the Indians crossed the border in an area where a temporary fence with barbed wire had been built.

He said the PPA has daily contact with the local community and information is shared. Saarepuu said he was grateful to the residents who called the authorities.

"Thanks to their vigilance, we were able to start looking for border crossers some 20 minutes before we would have detected the crossing ourselves with our patrol. Following these events, we have increased the number of patrols on the eastern border through overtime and have also deployed additional mobile surveillance equipment to the border," he said.

The official said preventing border crossings will be easier after border construction has ended.

"The fence and the barbed wire alone will not stop an illegal border crosser, but these obstacles will give border guards precious minutes to react in time and to have sufficient forces in place at the right time to stop illegal border crossings by larger groups if necessary," Saarepuu said.

Reservists constructing Estonia's temporary border barrier in south Estonia in November 2021. Source: Ministry of Defense

Additionally, just after midnight on Friday (December 22), six Indian citizens tried to enter Estonia via the Narva crossing point. They did not have the correct documents, were not allowed to enter Estonia, and were sent back to Russia.

Earlier this month, Finland closed its borders due to a "hybrid attack" by Russia which sent third-country migrants without documents to its border crossings to claim asylum.

Similar events have taken place on Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania's borders with Belarus.

Estonian officials said they are prepared to close the border if the situation changes on its border with Russia.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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