Latvia starts repatriating migrants who crossed border from Belarus

Riga, Nov 24 (EFE).- Thirty-five undocumented migrants who crossed the border from Belarus illegally in recent weeks and were apprehended by Latvia’s State Border Guard Service have been or are being repatriated to their home countries, local media reported Wednesday.

Some 200 asylum applications, most by people from Iraq who arrived in Latvia from Belarus over the summer, will be processed by the first quarter of next year, Madara Puke, Deputy director, Head of public relations at Latvia’s The Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (PLMP), told Efe.

Local media reported that as of October 31, 24 people had been granted alternative status, and 65 people, mainly citizens of Belarus and Afghanistan, had been granted refugee status.

According to Kristine Petersone, Latvia’s Border Guard spokesperson, no one detained crossing the border from Belarus can apply for asylum under the state of emergency that has been in force at the border since August.

While some people have been allowed into Latvia from Belarus on humanitarian grounds, the official policy is to turn back all attempts to cross the border, she told EFE.

Local media reported that between 20 to 30 people were being turned away every day at the Belarus border.

There have so far been no scenes of attempts by dozens or even hundreds of migrants to cross the border and clashing with border guards, as has been seen in Poland.

On a rare media visit to a Latvian border checkpoint on November 17, in an area closed to journalists and non-governmental organizations under the emergency, a border guard spokesman said the Latvian side used a loudspeaker and recordings in several languages to tell migrants not to try to cross.

Like its Baltic neighbor Lithuania, Latvia has seen a surge of irregular border crossings from Belarus as part of a migration crisis which the European Union says has been orchestrated by strongman Aleksandr Lukashenko in retaliation for sanctions imposed on the country following a wave of political repression in late 2020 and the diversion of a Ryanair airliner to Minsk to arrest a dissident journalist on board. EFE


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