At a border surveillance station in southern Latvia, officers, including Vladimirs Šersts, closely monitor the Latvia-Belarus border to detect and manage increasing instances of border crossings. The station, equipped with multiple screens displaying live feeds of the 100-mile-long border area, reflects heightened security measures, including the erection of a larger fence in response to a surge in migration in 2021.
The migration challenge has been exacerbated by the Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko’s alleged orchestration of the crisis, a claim he vehemently denies. In retaliation against EU sanctions, Lukashenko is accused of intentionally facilitating the movement of migrants into EU states, with many now making their way to the Latvia-Belarus border.
Latvian officials, grappling with a record number of attempted crossings, face the complex task of managing the situation. As Marija Golubeva, a former interior minister for Latvia, asserts the strategic nature of Lukashenko’s migration scheme, concerns about the politicization of the asylum process at the Latvia-Belarus border have arisen.
Call for transparency
Amid the challenging journey faced by migrants, Latvian NGO Gribu Palīdzēt Bēgļiem (I Want to Help Refugees) emphasizes the importance of a transparent and individualized asylum process.
Anna Grike, actively engaged in supporting migrants, highlights the humanitarian aspect, noting that migrants, predominantly from conflict-ridden countries, are driven by the motivation to flee perilous situations.
While the border surveillance officer Šersts underscores the strained relationship between Russia and Belarus, likening it to “fighting neighbors,” Grike emphasizes the need for Latvia to act responsibly, avoid arbitrary pushbacks, and adopt a transparent approach in evaluating asylum requests. The plea is for a nuanced response that considers each individual case amid the complex geopolitical dynamics at play in the region.