Latvia: deadly fire in illegal hostel

Eight people died in a fire in an unregistered hostel in the centre of Riga at the end of April. The subsequent police investigation brought to light serious problems in this and other illegal hostels in the Latvian capital. The media criticise what appears to be a systemic lack of state supervision.

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Dienas Bizness (LV) /

Systematic approach needed

It's too bad that authorities only take action when it's too late, Dienas bizness laments:

“Only once disaster has struck do they take action: the police initiate criminal proceedings, conduct searches and interrogations, detain suspects, the Riga Construction Board starts identifying hostel services on, and so on. But here we are struggling with the consequences of the police's inaction before the fact. It's understandable: public attention is now focused on the case. But it's a fundamental problem that action is only taken when a case attracts attention. This doesn't inspire confidence that action will continue to be taken once the scandal dies down, because there is no systematic approach aimed at preventing these illegal business activities.”

Neatkarīgā (LV) /

Appalling lack of regulation

There must be consequences for those who operate illegal hotels, demands Neatkarīgā:

“Right in the middle of Riga a hostel has been operating for some time now which the police have been called to 16 times since March. Just one day before the fire, someone apparently died of a drug overdose in this nasty place. Despite all this, the hostel continued to operate. Meanwhile the police boast in front of running cameras about how many fines they have issued to people not wearing face masks. Legal hotels are being closed down, yet illegal hostels continue to operate in full view of the police and other state authorities. What does all this mean? That such things are just allowed to go on and no one cares!”