bnn.lv Latviski   bnn-news.com English   bnn-news.ru По-русски
Saturday 01.10.2016 | Name days: Lāsma, Zanda, Zandis
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

Latvia has the eighth highest unemployment level in the European Union

In August, the highest unemployment level in the European Union was registered in Spain, where it reached 19.5%. Latvia’s unemployment level was 9.3% in August. It is the eighth highest among EU member states, according to data published by Eurostat on Friday.

Baltic States reach an agreement on Rail Baltica contract

The agreement on Rail Baltica project’s financing and completion conditions has been reached and signed in all three Baltic capitals, as Saeima’s European Affairs Committee was told by Chairperson of RB Rail Baiba Rubesa.

Lithuanian MPs overturn contentious law ID’ing all booze buyers

After a fortnight of grocery retailers’ mandatory carding, Lithuanian lawmakers gave in to the angry alcohol buyers’ demand to repeal the order and passed this week an amendment that now requires sellers to ID only those alcohol buyers who seem to be underage.

WADA adds meldonium to the list of banned substances in 2017

The World Anti-Doping Agency has published its list of banned substances for 2017. Meldonium, developed in Latvia, will remain on this list.

Weekends expected to be rainy in Latvia; next week to be especially cold

A new cyclone will reach Latvia on Sunday. It will bring with it strong rain. After that, an anti-cyclone will reach Latvia on Tuesday. Strong northern wind will carry over colder masses of air to the country, as reported by Latvian State Environmental, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

10% increase in visitor numbers expected for Riga’s hotels

In 2016, hotels and other places of accommodation in Riga could experience a 10% increase in the number of visitors when compared to 2015, says manager of Riga’s Tourism Development Bureau Vita Jermolovica.

Russian proposal to ban baby boxes gains government backing

A proposal to ban baby boxes in Russia has gained the backing of the federal government but is facing sharp criticism.

Government approves Start-up Operation Support Law draft

On Thursday, 29 September, Latvian government approved Economy Ministry’s proposed draft for Start-up Operation Support Law to support and regulate operations of so-called start-up companies.

Swiss engineering firm ABB expands in Estonia

Swiss engineering system manufacturer ABB group will launch its new regional business service centre in Tallinn in October.

EUR 15,017 donated for infertility treatment programme in Latvia

To help finance infertility treatment programme, charity campaign organized by Butterfly Effect association in cooperation with Elvi and EGV Clinic has raised EUR 15,017 since the beginning of 2016.

Study: counterfeit medicine causes major losses for EU

Because of counterfeit medicine, the legal medical industry in Europe loses EUR 10 billion every year, which accounts for 4.4% of the entire trade volume of the pharmacy sector, as concluded in the latest European Union Intellectual Property Office study about counterfeit medicine and its effect on economies of EU member states.

«Death» shows support to UGF’s work in government during doctors’ protest

The protest act organized by Latvian Health and Social Care Workers Union near the Saeima gathered 300 to 350 people.

U.S. warns Russia about bombing of besieged Syrian city

The U.S. has warned Russia that Washington would stop cooperation with Moscow in Syria if Moscow would not stop the bombardment of besieged Aleppo.

Latvia supports Kristalina Georgieva as candidate for UN Secretary General post

Latvia supports EC Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva as a candidate for the post of UN Secretary General, as confirmed by Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkevics.

Aseradens: decline of electricity prices expected in Latvia

If reforms are successfully realized in the electrical energy market, Latvia may experience a decline in electricity prices, as announced by Economy Minister Arvils Aseradens.

MH17 investigators: Missile came from Russia, was shot from rebel-held territory

The Dutch-led international team of prosecutors stated on September 28 that it has found that the missile with which passenger plane on flight MH17 was downed in 2014 over eastern Ukraine was shot from territory held by pro-Kremlin separatists.

Politicians forget about transit industry as a source of income for state budget

Politicians and the public regularly discuss the lack of budget funds to afford improvements for healthcare, education, law enforcement. New taxes and new ways of adding money to the state chancellery are sought left and right. They forget that transit has always been a stable source of income for Latvia, Vesti Segodnya writes.

Study: most girls and half of boys in Riga do not tie their future to exact sciences

73.5% of girls and 49.1% of boys in Riga do not see their future associated with exact sciences, according to results of Jaunieši IT study carried out in Riga’s schools.

Businessmen: faster adoption of e-procurements system would benefit competition

To ensure more transparent procurements, businessmen urge government to introduce an electronic procurement system as soon as possible. This system is expected to ensure honest competition and help resolve other problems that are often present in state and municipal procurements.

President: KNAB supervisory institutions should explain the loss of classified documents

Institutions that supervise the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau have to determine the cause behind the loss of classified documents, as announced by Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis.

Data on students and graduates to be compiled for more effective budget planning

To help develop the State Education Information System, it is planned to expand one of its sections by creating a register for students and graduates. This is provided by amendments to the Law on Institutions of Higher Education supported by the Cabinet of Ministers.

Global trade growth slowing, WTO

The World Trade Organisation has this week released an altered forecast for the global trade growth for 2016, which, comparing to its previous forecast for the same period has been cut by over a third.

Latvia resettles 82 people as part of EU refugee programme

Today, 28 September, nine people were transported to Latvia from Greece as part of the European Union’s resettlement programme, as LETA was informed by the Office for Citizenship and Migration Affairs.

August’s construction costs declined by 0.4% in Latvia

Compared to July, the level of construction costs in Latvia dropped by 0.4% in August 2016. Prices of building materials decreased by 0.8%, maintenance and operational costs of machinery and equipment reduced by 0.1%, whereas labour remuneration of workers did not witness any significant changes.

One-third of state institutions to not have to report data on employees’ remuneration

On Tuesday, 27 September, the Latvian government accepted amendments to the Law on Remuneration of Officials and Employees of State and Self-government Authorities that relieve 233 state institutions from the duty to report information about remuneration of their employees.