Latvia immigration authorities turns back illegal migrants at Belarus borde


In a bid to slow the arrival of migrants, Belarus guards turned back groups of migrants coming from Belarus on Thursday night.

The returning of the migrants took place hours after Latvia declared an emergency to prevent illegal migrants, mostly from the Middle East, Africa and Asia, from crossing into the country from Belarus.

The European Union has said the sending of migrants over its border has been part of a campaign by Belarus.

"We wanted to stay in here and live in Latvia. Please just help us because it is so cold and the children are sick," said an Iraqi migrant, in a text sent from near the Latvian border.

Meanwhile, Latvian commander, Lt. Colonel Ilmars Aispurs, said the Iraqis were turned away and told to head towards the nearest official border crossing point, if they are seeking asylum.

The sudden crossings of migrants into Lithuania, Latvia and Poland is seen as a response by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to "weaponize" migrants, in a bid to pressure the EU to reverse sanctions on Belarus.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the UN Refugee Agency in the Nordics and Baltic told Reuters, "We are deeply concerned about reports of pushbacks. The UNHCR is sending a mission to Latvia to discuss the situation."

Latvia's Interior Ministry said 59 migrants have been blocked from crossing since the emergency was declared, though a larger group of migrants was allowed in and taken to migrant centers.

On Wednesday, Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said EU countries must show Belarus that sending immigrants to cross into the bloc is pointless.

"With this hybrid warfare against the EU, the Belarusian side is only escalating tensions," said Karins, according to the Baltic News Service.

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