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RIGA: Latvia declared a local state of emergency along its border with Belarus on Tuesday, as Lithuania’s parliament passed a law authorizing the construction of a border fence to stop the flow of illegal immigrants.
In the past 24 hours, some 200 migrants crossed from Belarus into Latvia, a member state of the European Union and NATO, which has a population of 1.9 million.
“The state of emergency means that the border between Latvia and Belarus will be practically closed to everyone,” Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said, after the government agreed to initiate the state of emergency from Wednesday to November 10.
In neighboring Lithuania, parliament on Tuesday passed a law giving the green light to build a fence along the border with Belarus.
“We must have strong and reliable borders with Belarus … as soon as possible,” said Lithuanian Interior Minister Agni Belotit, noting that the passage of the law cut the time needed to build the 152-meter fence in half. millions of euros.
Brussels accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of deliberately encouraging the crossing of migrants, mostly Iraqis, in response to the severe sanctions imposed on his regime.
This week, Lithuania, which provided strong support and haven to the Belarusian opposition, began working to return the migrants, after more than 4,000 people entered through Belarus since the beginning of this year.
Poland, which shares a border with Belarus, has registered 349 arrivals since Friday.
On Tuesday, the European Union announced a “significant decrease” in the number of migrants arriving in Lithuania, after Iraq suspended flights to Belarus at the request of Brussels and Vilnius.
European Union ministers will debate the issue next week.
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