Representatives of the Ombudsman’s Office visit border control posts in Terehova and Grebņeva

On Tuesday, July 19, Deputy Ombudsman Ineta Piļāne, together with other representatives of the Ombudsman’s Office, visited the border control posts in Terehova and Grebņeva. The visit was carried out in response to information received about a growing number of people from Ukraine who are entering Latvia from Russia, with the aim to transit through Latvia to reach other destinations in Europe.

During the visit, representatives of the Ombudsman’s Office met with Colonel Valdis Jukšs, Head of the Ludza Administration of the State Border Guard, who, together with the responsible officials, outlined the way the two border control posts are managed. They also examined the procedure for people arriving at the border control posts by public transport, private cars, or on foot. The time people spend at the border control post depends both on what documents they are able to present upon entry and on the overall amount of traffic at the border control post at the particular time.

During the time of the visit, the entry procedures were carried out efficiently and no large queues of civilians from Ukraine formed. The infrastructure of the border control posts was adequate for the respective flow of people. At the same time, several interviewees pointed out that they were forced to wait on the Russian side for more than a day, which significantly prolonged the overall process of crossing the border. It should be stressed that this aspect cannot be impacted by the Latvian authorities and does not depend on the actions of the Latvian border guards.

Ukrainian civilians who come to Latvia in transit most often have a specific destination in mind – another European country.  Although some people have relatives or acquaintances in these countries, people often do not have specific plans or knowledge about how to get help in the respective country, where to find accommodation, how to find a job, etc. These circumstances put people fleeing the war in a particularly vulnerable position and increase the risk of becoming victims of trafficking in human beings at their destination. Therefore, during the visit, representatives of the Ombudsman’s Office paid special attention to reducing the risks of trafficking in human beings and made recommendations on improving the availability of information on assistance/aid.

The issue of transporters staying at border control posts to transport people to other countries, is still relevant. A number of Ukrainian civilians met by the delegation of the Ombudsman’s Office indicated that after crossing the border control posts, they would go to one of these vehicles and use them to reach their next destination. They had paid for this service in advance. This issue was also discussed with representatives of the State Police, who regularly patrol and monitor these places. Furthermore, in response to information regarding the availability of infrastructure in Zilupe, the representatives of the Ombudsman’s Office visited the Zilupe railway station. At the request of the State Border Guard officials, the station is not being closed during night hours, thereby allowing persons travelling in transit to wait there for a train to Riga.