Afghan migrant dies in hospital after crossing into Latvia from Belarus

  • 2022-12-20
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - A critically ill and frostbitten Afghan migrant who on Monday was smuggled into Latvia from Belarus, later died at a hospital in the eastern Latvian city of Rezekne, LETA was told at the State Border Guard. 

Illegal migrants on Monday smuggled two Afghan citizens across the Latvian-Belarus border. 

Latvian border guards noticed two groups of people on the Belarusian side of the border. One of the groups was transporting a man on a stretcher. 

To prevent illegal border crossing, the border guards approached the scene and observed how one of the potential trespassers pulled the man on the stretcher across the border through a hole made in the border fence and then returned to Belarus. Moments later, one more person was pushed into Latvian territory. 

On inspecting and questioning the two migrants, the border guards discovered that both men were showing visible signs of hypothermia and that they were unable to answer any questions. 

An ambulance crew was promptly called to provide medical assistance to the two frostbitten migrants. They were rushed to the Rezekne hospital for treatment where one of the Afghans died of severe hypothermia. 

"Such an atrocity on the part of the immigrants and Belarusian authorities is categorically unacceptable," the State Border Guard said in a statement.

The Belarusian authorities continue to pose hybrid threats on the border with Latvia and, despite the cold weather conditions, these threats are intensifying, the State Border Guard said. 

State Border Guard chief Guntis Pujats informed earlier that border guards have observed a very high involvement of Belarusian authorities in organizing the cross-border traffic of illegal migrants. Furthermore, Belarusian border guards have been seen carrying unusual weapons like sniper rifles and machine guns.

Last year, Latvian border guards prevented 4,045 attempts to illegally enter Latvia from Belarus and detained 446 persons, most of them before the state of emergency was introduced. Of the detained persons, 59 voluntarily left Latvia, most of them for Iraq. Meanwhile, 421 people escaped from the asylum seekers' center, which in Pujats' opinion is an indication that these migrants had no intention to stay in Latvia. Migrants also often feigned illness to get into EU territory.

Considering the persistent pressure of illegal migration, the government on February 1 decided to extend the state of emergency in the regions bordering with Belarus until May 10. The state of emergency in the regions of Ludza, Kraslava and Augsdaugava as well as Daugavpils City was first declared on August 11, 2021 to deal with a sharp increase in illegal border crossings.

Latvian authorities consider attempts by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko's regime to push migrants across Latvian, Lithuanian and Polish borders to be methods of hybrid warfare targeting these countries.