Allegations about mistreatment of migrants by Latvia are one-sided and not substantiated by evidence - Border Guard chief

  • 2022-08-12
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - Allegations by Amnesty International about mistreatment of migrants on Latvia's borders are one-sided and not substantiated by evidence, the State Border Guard Chief Guntis Pujats said in an interview with Latvian Television on Friday.

According to Pujats, members of Amnesty International met with a number of representatives of Latvian state institutions who provided comprehensive information about the situation on the Latvian-Belarusian border, but there is none of this information in the organization's report, which therefore is one-sided.

The report contains complaints of individual migrants about Latvia's actions, but there is no evidence to back up these accusations, said Pujats. Not a single migrant has been seriously injured or killed on the border, he added.

Pujats believes that the flow of migrants to Latvia's border has been deliberately created by the Belarusian regime in attempt to undermine the European asylum system and to make it more difficult to provide support for war refugees from Ukraine.

It is clear that Latvia has again been selected as the target country for the organized migrant movement from Belarus since August, said Pujats. Before that, migrants were moving to Lithuania, but Belarus has been slowly diverting the stream of migrants to Latvia's border.

Belarus also helps migrants illegally enter Latvia in other ways, for example, by cutting through the fence on the Latvian-Belarusian border, Pujats added.

The Border Guard has requested help from the State Police and National Armed Forces to improve border controls along the border with Belarus. The State Police said they would provide assistance to the Border Guard, but there has been no response from the Armed Forces so far.

As reported, Amnesty International said in a report released this past July that Latvia had exposed migrants at the Belarus border to ill-treatment and even torture, holding them in the forest for months.

For about a year already Latvian authorities have been taking measures to prevent illegal migrants, mainly from the Middle East, from entering Latvia from Belarus, said the report. As Latvia has repeatedly underlined, the migrant traffic across Latvia's border has been intentionally organized by Belarus' authoritarian regime as a hybrid operation against Latvia. Latvian authorities also indicate that these people have had the opportunity to request asylum in Belarus as the first safe country they have reached.

In a letter addressed to the Latvian interior minister that was published on August 9, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic also expresses her concern about the reports of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants having been violently prevented from entering Latvia from Belarus, held in inhumane conditions in the forest, denied access to the asylum procedure, and forced into signing voluntary return declarations.