Escape from Belarus: Do fences have to be built?

Latvia has followed Lithuania's example and also declared a state of emergency in a bid to stop refugees from entering the country via Belarus. Brussels has accused Lukashenka of deliberately sending Iraqis on to the two Baltic states to put pressure on the EU because of the sanctions it has imposed. The Latvian border is now closed, but some commentators stress that this is not enough.

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Latvijas Avīze (LV) /

Latvia is well prepared

Latvijas avīze is relieved that a state of emergency has been declared:

“In the refugee crisis orchestrated by Lukashenka, Latvia is lucky because we already have an effective solution. The officials in Latvia don't need to rack their brains and run around offices shouting, 'What do we do now?' Because the Lithuanian solution has shown us what we need to do: not arrest illegal immigrants, but not let them into the country in the first place and send them back immediately, without spending months clarifying their identity. Naturally, effective border control requires considerable human resources and also technical solutions. But at least we have a clear plan for the future.”

Neatkarīgā (LV) /

Build a mile-high fence

Latvia shouldn't be too squeamish now, advises Neatkarīgā:

“This is not like a few years ago when we shed tears for poor Iraqis who had fled real danger. Now it's a completely different story: it's about a crime against Lithuania and also against Latvia. ... Latvia now urgently needs to build a fence that no one can cross. Latvia's border with Belarus is 173 kilometres long. The Roman emperor Hadrian built a 117-kilometre-long wall as early as 122 AD to protect his possessions from the wild Celts. And Latvia can build a fence too!”

Ilta-Sanomat (FI) /

Finland must not be naïve

In Lithuania, suspicion is growing that Lukashenka is copying the strategy adopted by Russia when it allowed refugees to cross the border into Finland in the winter of 2015-2016, Ilta-Sanomat points out, and fears a repeat of this scenario:

“What a shock it would be if Russia one day let citizens from third countries cross the border with Finland through the forest? That could happen, for example, if Putin's government were on the verge of collapse and engaged in as cynical a struggle for survival as Lukashenka is now. Lithuania has decided to reinforce its eastern border with a metal fence. Finland should also consider whether our border is adequately protected. No new Berlin Wall or Trump-style wall should be built on the EU's external border, but we must not be naïve either.”