bnn.lv Latviski   bnn-news.com English   bnn-news.ru По-русски
Friday 28.04.2017 | Name days: Terēze, Gundega
LatviaLatvia

Lithuania’s nagging headache: increasingly porous Latvian borders

FaceBook
Twitter
Draugiem
print
(+1 of 1)

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

Lithuania might be facing a major threat soon. Although it is coming from the East, behind it stands not the bellicose Russia, but thousands of illegal migrants.

If the European Union manages to put somehow a stop to the human torrent in the South, then it can roll to Lithuania through Ukraine’s porous Belarusian border and Latvia. The latter, Lithuanian officials admit, is becoming «an increasing concern.»

Will illegal immigrants make it to Baltics?

«The protection of Latvian borders is a matter of Latvia, but we can state that the numbers of contraband goods and illegal immigrants from the country is on the rise. Last year, part of smuggled goods from Latvia accounted for 14,2 percent in the total contraband and 45 percent of all illegal migrants in 2015 also came from Latvia. The figures are expected to rise this year,» Giedrius Mišutis, the spokesman for Lithuania’s State Border Guard Service, told BNN.

But is the change in migrants’ pathways real? A knowledgeable source in Lithuania’s Ministry of Interior Affairs, who spoke to Delfi.lt on the condition of anonymity, insists that it is very real and moreover: Lithuania is unprepared for it, he says.

«If the European Union manages to partly reign in the illegitimate migration flows from Turkey to Greece and from Libya to Italy, the new ways of illegal migration can open up through Ukraine, Russia and Belarus. In this case, the Baltic States can become corridors for the crowds of Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis and others,» the source claims.

Lithuania is holding border drills

To get better prepared for possible challenges to the EU easternmost borders, Lithuania’s Interior Ministry has started this week exercises simulating an unexpected breach of the border security and getting it swiftly under control. The high-ranking Interior ministry official, however, insists that is not enough.

«I don’t say we should get panicky, but the preparations for that kind scenario should be in a full swing. The examples of Norway and Finland have revealed that Syrian and Afghan immigrants brave up to cross the borders even after spending a couple of years in Russia. Russia has always been the main supplier of illegal immigrants. Nearly all of them reach the Lithuanian borders from there- either through Belarus, Estonia or Latvia. If the border is tightened up at one strip, they will look for loose stretches elsewhere,» the Lithuanian official warned.

Border guards have to be ready for anything

Speaking of the border exercises, Saulius Skvernelis, the Lithuanian Interior minister, admitted they are in response to the situation in the East, which, in the minister’s words, will possibly get «hotter.»

«Lithuanian border guards have to be able to hold in a lot bigger flow of possible immigrants and smugglers. All exercises we hold are aimed at all kinds of possible scenarios,” Skvernelis told. «If the pressure (at the Lithuanian borders) were as if that at the Greek border, we must be able to cope with it and possess all the means for that.»

The minister admitted that the border drills are also partly related to the stepped up surveillance of the Norwegian-Russia and Finnish-Russian borders, which saw an increased number of illegitimate crossings lately.

Russia «weaponizes» immigrants?

Finnish media has reported that secret Russian services, like FST, instigate and organize illegitimate migration through the northeastern border. A similar situation was simultaneously observed at the Norwegian and Russian border. In 2015, around 5500 migrants reportedly sneaked into Norway from Russia. As part of them had previously lived legally in Russia, Norway started to send them back to Russia, but met the latter’s resistance.

«We are aware of the situation. Just five years ago, nobody could predict that Europe would have to deal with that scope of illegal immigration. We have to be prepared. The border exercises simulate a remote possibility of incontrollable influx of migrants at the Lithuanian borders. But it does not mean, however, that the threat is here and now,» Elvinas Jankevičius, the deputy Interior minister, says.

According to him, there is «a concern», however, that with the pathways of illegal migration under control at the EU southern borders, the new ones will emerge elsewhere, and the Baltics is not safe.

Latvian-Russian border protection in question

The Hungarian-Ukrainian and Latvian-Russian borders are of particular uneasiness for Lithuanian officials.

As both Lithuania and Latvia belong to the Schengen zone, the non-existent border between the two neigbours, is getting increasingly more attractive for many smugglers and illegal immigrants, too.

«Many would rather not to say it, but we wish that the Latvians guarded their borders way more painstakingly,» said the undisclosed Lithuanian official.

After Russia began war against Ukraine and after an Estonian border guard was kidnapped at the Estonian-Russian border, Estonia announced about the plan to erect a 2,5-metre high fence on the 136-kilometre border with Russia, as well as installing special buoys in the Peipus-Pskov Lake.

Latvia has also announced intention to build a fence on its 214-kilometre border with Russia.

Both countries will step up border surveillance

Faced with the prospects of higher illegal immigration, Lithuanian officials say, Lithuania and Latvia are considering renewing the control of the joint border.

«We are talking about the formula, where, one day, Lithuanians would keep a keener eye on it and, the other day, the Latvians would take over the surveillance. As the European Union is dealing with huge illegal immigration, perhaps as soon as this summer we will likely see refugees not only from the war-ravaged Iraq and Syria, but also from Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and other countries trying to cross the border,» the Lithuanian Interior ministry representative said.

Politics dominates Belarusian-Lithuanian border control

The Lithuanian border with Belarus is protected «decently», the official says, but the quality depends on the political relations with the neighbour.

«When here’s a thaw in the relations, then Belarusians do a good work catching illegal border crossers. When the relations are good, they accept them when we return them held up on this side of the border. But when the relations are rocky, then they start wriggling out,» the source related.

According to the knowledgeable source, illegal border trespassers apprehended on the Lithuanian side are accepted by Belarus only when the borders guards on both sides produce evidence of the illegitimate crossing.

«But since the agreement is unofficial, the whole process depends on the Belarusian colleagues’ mood. Therefore, we have a situation, where we can provide video evidence, but the colleagues on the other side of the border insist they have not spotted any traces of the trespassers. Such communication makes things very complicated,» the official within Lithuania’s State Border Guard Service underlined.

EU integration on halt for years to come

Asked about the probability of illegal migrants’ influx at the Lithuanian borders, Arvydas Anušauskas, a member of the Lithuanian Parliament’s (Seimas) Committee ob National Defense and Security, told BNN that Lithuania «constantly» deals with illegal immigration from the East.

«But unlike Greece, Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, the countries in the East, control their borders more strictly. I don’t think that the flows of illegal migrants through the borders are possible unless the countries’ state structures deliberately let the crowds of illegal immigrants stream to the EU eastern borders, i.e. the Baltic countries,» the MP underlined. «The risk is there.»

Calling migrant crisis «a huge challenge for the European Union», Anušauskas believes that any further integration of the Union has been out of question for many years to come.

«I think the European Union will remain the way it is now, but the issue of migration is a big splinter in the member states’ positions (on the issue). I think that, addressing it, the European Commission should be working along with the countries in the East, too,» the parliamentarian believes.

Ref: 111.111.111.3288


Leave a reply

Antane: we have to act fast to prevent our transit industry from falling behind other countries

Europe has major plans in relation to port development – it is planned to increase cargo volumes by one and a half times and create 160,000 new jobs by 2030. We have to act fast to make sure our transit industry does not fall into second speed countries group, says president of Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics Inga Antane.

Retail trade turnover up 1.5% in Latvia

Compared to March 2016, total retail trade turnover in Latvia rose by 1.5 % in March 2017. Turnover of retail trade in food products declined by 0.8 %, whereas turnover of retail trade in non-food products grew by 3.3 %.

The biggest environmental threat in Riga is pollution caused by vehicles’ exhaust gases

Looking at the main factors that create the most pollution to Latvia’s environment, 53% of Riga residents mentioned pollution caused by vehicle exhaust gases, according to results of Baltic International Bank’s Latvian barometer data.

Murniece: Kremlin's aggressive behaviour is a threat to our region

The presence of US armed forces in Baltic States is a decisive element to oppose the region’s current security threat, says Saeima speaker Inara Murniece during her meeting with US Congress House of Representatives speaker Paul Ryan.

Lithuania plans to add asphalt surfacing to 815 km of gravel roads this year

This year, Lithuania plans to add asphalt surfacing to 815 km of gravel roads. 600 km of roads will receive soft asphalt surface, and 215 km of roads will receive surface restoration.

Study: number of Baltic tourists’ trips to USA increases

In the summer season, Baltic tourists prefer to travel by air to Asia and UAE. The most popular destinations reachable by land include Italy, Spain and Germany, according to information compiled by travel agency Estravel and car rent company Budget.

Lithuanian PM: Lithuania will hush Latvia in pursuit of Chinese investments

Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis must have scratched Latvia‘s ego. «In the competition for Chinese investments, Lithuania should overcome Latvia,» the head of Lithuanian Government declared after meeting Zhang Dejiang, China‘s Parliament Speaker.

Estonia allows drivers to use studded tyres in part of May

As the northern-most Baltic nation experiences cold weather, unlike normally in late April, the Estonian roads’ authority has permitted drivers to leave their studded winter tyres on until May 7.

MEP: to prevent Baltics from dying out, we need much higher growth goals

«The growth goals of Baltic States are currently too low if we want to not only avoid dying out, but also recovering the people that have left because of economic reasons,» said Lithuanian MEP Antans Guoga.

Estonian TransferWise to open office in Singapore

Estonian-managed money transfer company TransferWise has announced its plans to open a regional head office for Asia in Singapore.

Rinkevics: we have to demonstrate unity of EU member states in Brexit talks

«We have to demonstrate the unity of 27 EU member states in Brexit talks,» says Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkevics.

American company shares traded the most; Apple shares popular the most in Baltics

Shares of Apple, Amazon and Facebook were traded the most in Q1 2017, as announced by international online trading and investment company Saxo Bank. Deals with Apple shares were the most popular among Saxo Bank’s Baltic investors.

Draghi: Economic recovery in eurozone becomes more solid

Increasingly solid is the economic recovery of the euro area as it faces less risks, evaluated head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi. The eurozone’s governing financial institution has maintained its main interest rate on hold at zero for another month.

Crowd of protesters break into Macedonian parliament

The Assembly of Macedonia has been stormed by a violent crowd, protesting against the election of an ethnic Albanian politician as the speaker.

April in Latvia to conclude with rain; beginning of May expected to be warm

April in Latvia will conclude with rainy and cold weather, whereas the first days of May are expected to be different, as reported by Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Number of POS terminals in Latvia increased 16% in 2016

According to data of Association of Latvian Commercial Banks, compared to 2015, the number of POS terminals in Latvia increased 16% in 2016, reaching 41,613 terminals in total. On average, 494 new POS terminals are released in the country.

Citadele and Visa to create a brand new credit card in Baltics

Citadele Bank has signed a contract for long-term cooperation with global payment technology company Visa. The contract provides for close cooperation in the development of new and innovative payment cards and other payment products in all three Baltic States in the next six years.

Finance Ministry promises tax burden decline will be felt by all residents

The tax policy reform will make Latvia more competitive in comparison with other Baltic States. In addition, reforms in the country will introduce the largest PIT benefits for dependents among other Baltic States, Finance Ministry promises.

Latvia signs contract on procurement of howitzers from Austria

A mutual contract on the purchase of M109A5Oe-type self-propelled howitzer system, fire support and training platform has been signed by Latvian Defence Ministry and Austrian Defence and Sport Ministry.

Committee to evaluate education quality in Riga and reduction of classes in gymnasiums

Riga City Council intends to hold a meeting of the Education, Culture and Sports Committee. The agenda of this meeting includes Unity faction deputy Baiba Brigmane’s request to include the matter regarding Education and Science Ministry’s study performed in Riga’s secondary schools. The meeting will take place at 11:00 on Thursday, 27 April.

NATO cyber defence drill in Estonia gets bigger

Tallinn’s NATO cyber defence centre is currently holding its annual training exercise, cooperating with NATO members, partner countries and tech firms.

Lithuania: EU tends to finance electronic transports and railway, not roads

Lithuanian Road Administration believes European Union’s tends not to finance road infrastructure development and instead focus more on use of electric transports and railway infrastructure development. This is why the administration works on research of other sources of funding, says the administration’s director Egidijus Skrodenis.

KNAB commences criminal process in relation to bribe request

Latvian Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau has commenced a criminal process in relation to possible corruptive behaviour of a state official, requesting a bribe.

Baryshnikov to be given Latvian citizenship for contribution to Latvia’s culture

On Thursday, 27 April, Latvia’s Saeima supported the legislative draft regarding the provision of Latvian citizenship to world-famous artist Mikhail Baryshnikov for his contribution to Latvia’s culture, as BNN was informed by Saeima’s press-service.

Lithuania asks Klaipeda gas terminal to be added to EU’s list of projects of common interest

Lithuania has asked Klaipeda LNG terminal to be added to EU’s list of projects of common interest. If European Commission decides to approve this request, Lithuania can hope for financial support of at least EUR 100 million. This funding would help reduce gas prices for consumers in Lithuania and other Baltic States.