On Tuesday, the 31st of December, Latvia’s government supported extending the state of emergency on the Latvian-Belarusian border until the 10th of May in order to combat the illegal migration organised by Belarusian authorities.
Minister of the Interior Māris Kučinskis said the situation on the border with Belarus remains unchanged. For example, last night 24 illegal immigrants attempted to cross the Latvian-Belarusian border, 15 tried to illegally cross the Lithuanian-Belarusian border and 64 attempted to cross the Polish-Belarusian border.
In January there were 300 attempts to illegally cross into Latvia. In December 2022 there were more than 1 000 illegal border-crossing attempts.
The interior affairs sector has reasons to believe this may be because people on the other side are waiting for Latvia to lift the state of emergency.
At the same time, several people were allowed to enter Latvia for humanitarian reasons.
On Sunday Latvian authorities caught a nine-person family. Generally the situation on the border indicates signs of provocations – first people are brought to the Latvian side and then more people are brought to the Belarusian-Lithuanian border.
Although the Ministry of Justice maintained objections regarding extension of a state of emergency, Kučinskis did not deny it is necessary to look for a possible solution to replace the state of emergency with other forms of regulations. At the same time, Latvia needs to coordinate activities with aforementioned allies. «So far we’ve yet to find any [solutions] and neither have our neighbours, but we cannot afford to become a weak point of the border,» stressed the minister.
Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš said at a press-conference that the Latvian border is as safe as that of Poland and Lithuania. As for who is to blame for delays with construction of border infrastructure in Latvia, the PM said sometimes the country’s own system slows down the construction process. Nevertheless, authorities are looking for solutions in order to overcome delays. «We in our country, law enforcement institutions included, have to let go of the fact that we are slaves to letters,» said the PM.
Kučinskis said the interior affairs sector has found and will continue looking for additional improvements to speed up construction of border infrastructure.
The state of emergency was announced in Ludza, Kraslava and Daugavpils on the 10th of August 2021. It was extended multiple times. The last time it was extended until the 10th of February. The Ministry of Justice previously objected to the extension of the state of emergency for no reason. Now the ministry has once again objected doing this without coordinating with authorities first.
The ministry notes that a state of emergency is a legal regime during which the Cabinet of Ministers has the authority to limit the rights and freedoms of state administration and municipal institutions, as well as private and legal persons. The government is also authorised to impose additional duties. The ministry stresses – a state of emergency cannot serve as a measure to organise work of various state institutions and a justification for allocation of additional funding in a democratic country ruled by law.
The Ministry of Justice believes that since the declaration of the state of emergency the Ministry of the Interior has not tried finding a more efficient and mild border control regime. The ministry outlines that the Law on the State Border of the Republic of Latvia, for example, already includes the option to establish tightened border control or declaration of a state of emergency or state of exception along the border. The ministry believes tightened border control would be a milder solution.
The total indicative funding to maintain the state of emergency for three more months is around EUR 2.15 million.
The estimate is based on provisional data. The actual volume of costs may yet increase if the situation deteriorates.
With the state of emergency in place, Latvian armed forces and police are given the rights to use all means and procedures available to them to deter people from illegally crossing the Latvian-Belarusian border.
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