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Russia-Latvian Border Fence

Latvia prepared to enforce border protection policies, not only because of any possible Russian provocation, but also because of the growing number of refugees trying to enter the Schengen zone via Belarus or Russia.

Latvia would build a fence along parts of its 270-kilometer (168-mile) border with Russia to keep illegal migrants out of the small Baltic country. An Interior Ministry spokeswoman said on 20 October 2015 the barrier would cover 90 kilometers of the land border in several sections and would be equipped with high-tech sensors. It's part of a 20 million euro ($23 million) project over the next four years to strengthen and better mark Latvia's border with its eastern neighbor.

Latvia had constructed a 14-mile fence along the 171-mile border with Russia for protection against illegal migrants entering the European Union, additional 37 miles would be constructed in 2017, the country's State Border Guard spokeswoman Jevgenija Poznaka said 04 February 2017. "The construction was started back in 2015, and we are planning to finish it by 2019. Forty miles of the border zone was built up, and the 14-mile fence was constructed," Poznaka told journalists.

The Delfi news agency reported in March 2016 that Riga received nearly $2 million from Brussels for constructing the first part of the wall, a 15-mile section. In 2017, Latvia allocated 6.3 million euros ($6.8 million) for the construction of the 37 miles of fence and 93 miles of border zone, the spokeswoman stated.

Many European countries are building fences. This could be a possible solution [to the EU migration crisis]. It is obvious that nobody will shoot people, Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma said on Latvian TV on 20 October 2015. According to Straujuma, Latvia may build fences on sections of the Belarus border that are the most likely to be used for illegal crossings by migrants.

Some 300 migrants had entered Latvia illegally from Russia this year. Most of the migrants are from Vietnam, but also from Iraq and Syria. The project was planned long ago, but the Interior Ministry spokesman said it had become "a priority" amid the current migrant crisis in Europe. In August 2015, Latvian Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis said the country needed to strengthen its shared border with Russia in order to prevent an influx of migrants who did not meet asylum seeker or refugee criteria. The initiative would require some 17 million euros ($18.8 million), according to Kozlovskis.

The fence would alternate with sensor-based systems and zones with surveillance cameras. Its overall costs would amount to 3.5 million euros ($4 million).

Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis promised in October 2015 that the fence would not become a "Chinese wall" preventing dialogue between the two countries. "It is needed not in order to build a Chinese wall between Russia and Latvia, but to limit the number of illegal immigrants," he told BNS. "We are to create a system that will prevent [illegal migrants] from crossing the border, or which will give us irrefutable evidence of their tracks," Kozlovskis said.

The fence would protect not only Latvia from illegal immigrants, according to Kozlovskis, but the whole European Union, because "no one [from those who were] detained [after illegally crossing the border] wants to stay in Latvia."

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Daiga Holma said 20 October 2015 that the fence, equipped with high-tech sensors, would cover 90 kilometers of the land border in several sections. It's part of a 20 million euro ($23 million) project over the next four years to strengthen and better mark Latvia's border with its eastern neighbor.

The fence was planned well before the migrant crisis in Europe but Holma said the project has become "a priority" because of fears that traffickers would use Latvia as a route for immigrants.

EUR 17 million would be spent on creating a border-zone on the border with Russia as well as building fences in some areas, State Border Guard spokeswoman Jevgenija Poznaka told LETA. Poznaka said that work on the creation of the border-zone is planned to be completed by 2019. She said that the border-zone would help Latvia monitor and protect the EU's outer border, as well as substantially restrict the smuggling of goods and illegal immigrants, which in turn would help improve Latvia's economic stability.





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