Latvia declares state of emergency along its Belarus border

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Latvia declared a state of emergency Tuesday at its Belarus border, authorizing the border guards but also armed forces and police to use physical force to return migrants to the country from which they came.

Latvia, like neighboring Lithuania, has faced an influx of mostly Iraqi migrants in the past few months coming in from Belarus. Their borders with Belarus are also the European Union’s external border.

The state of emergency will run from Aug. 11 until Nov. 10, the Baltic News Service said, and would also enable the Armed Forces and the state police to assist the Border Guard with the prevention of illegal immigration.

Latvia has a nearly 175-kilometer (109-mile) border with Belarus. Currently only border guards can patrol the border.

The BNS, quoting Latvia’s State Border Guard, said between Aug. 6 and Aug. 10, 283 people were detained for crossing the border from Belarus, bring the total for 2021 so far to 343 people.

The three Baltic countries, which all are members of the 27-nation EU, have accused the government of Belarus’ authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko of encouraging the migrant flow in retaliation for the EU sanctions against his country following the diversion of a passenger plane to arrest a dissident journalist aboard.

Poland, another EU member that borders Belarus, says it is also seeing a rising number of Iraqi and Afghan migrants trying to enter from Belarus, in what a government official called part of Belarus’ “hybrid war” against the EU.

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Follow all AP stories on global migration at https://apnews.com/hub/migration.

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