TALLINN - A police officer patrolling the Estonian-Latvian border said that there is no reason for panic in Estonia for the time being in the light of the migration crisis in Lithuania, Postimees reports.
Rene Lipping, head of field operations in the Valga patrol group, said that the situation remains calm on the Estonian side.
"We don't have any reason for panic. Recent days show that in Lithuania, too, the influx has declined," he said.
The Police and Border Guard Board has nonetheless strengthened border control in areas near the Estonian-Latvian border to prevent unlawful border crossing in case migratory pressure on Estonia should emerge. The concern was initially prompted by a large number of people, predominantly from Iraq, lately crossing the border between Lithuania and Belarus in a short period. At the end of last week, 28 people were also caught unlawfully crossing the border between Latvia and Belarus in one day.
Lithuania is accusing the regime of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko of using irregular migration as a way to retaliate for the European Union's sanctions, and Baltic defense ministers have called the situation a hybrid attack.
Lipping said that police patrols have been enhanced as a precaution, however. At noon on Monday, the situation on the Estonian border remained ordinary and no arrivals orchestrated by Lukashenko's regime had been detected. In Valga County, the Police and Border Guard increased the number of patrols on roads and border crossing points by two. No fences or other obstacles have been erected on the border so far. Patrols and checks have been enhanced, however, and the police forces have been made more visible, according to Lipping.
Police officers are first and foremost checking foreign vehicles on the border with the greatest focus placed on larger vehicles from outside the EU.
"Larger buses, vans, station wagons enabling to transport more people [are being checked] to prevent anyone providing a service of transporting people through Estonia," Lipping noted.
The Valga patrol group's head of field operations said that the police also lack information on how people are actually sent across the border from Belarus or how it has been made possible. Further guidelines will be announced if attempts are made to unlawfully cross the border to Estonia.
If anyone is caught irregularly crossing the border, they will not be sent back immediately, however, according to Lipping.
"Of course, we have places where we can accommodate them in case a larger influx occurs," he added.