Over 31,000 people travel to Belarus visa free for 2014 IIHF WM

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Over 31,000 people travel to Belarus visa free for 2014 IIHF WM

More than 31,000 ice hockey fans took advantage of the visa-free regime and traveled to Belarus for the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, Leonid Maltsev, the Chairman of the State Border Committee of Belarus, told a press conference on 27 May, BelTA has learned.

“On some days we had 5,000 fans crossing the border. More than 10,300 people came from Latvia, 4,300 from Lithuania, and over 2,000 from Finland. Lots of fans came from Russia. Belarus took an unprecedented step having decided to abolish visas for visitors and participants of the championship. No other country has done this before. "We had to solve a lot of issues to ensure comfort and security on the border. And we coped with this task well,” Leonid Maltsev said.

Border guards deserve some credit for the world championship in Minsk becoming the most attended in history. Taking into account the experience of the previous international sports events, and assisted by the European Border Control Agency Frontex and the border agencies of the neighboring countries we studied the risks, challenges and threats that could arise in the context of the visa-free regime, Leonid Maltsev said. They were connected with illegal migration, crime and even terrorism. The projections were so accurate that the prevention system never failed. Those who tried to use the championship for criminal purposes were detained.

The State Border Committee also paid special attention to the information aspect. Much was done to advertise the visa-free regime. The establishment of the new information website of the State Border Committee with special sections in Russian and English did its part in this effort.

In addition, meetings were held with the chiefs of the border services of the neighboring states to address the issues related to the combating of cross-border crime, illegal migration, drug trafficking, nuclear safety, and to ensure smooth functioning of the crossing points. The parties remain interested and willing to work together in the future. Leonid Maltsev thanked the neighbors for their effort and cooperation during the IIHF World Championship.

“We established close cooperation to facilitate border crossing, and also in security matters. We signed agreements with all the neighbors. We had special corridors for fans. Our neighbors did the same. Everything worked well,” said the Chairman of the State Border Committee.

Volunteers, including students of the Institute of the Border Service of Belarus, provided great assistance to border guards. They gained an invaluable experience of working in this unique environment.

“The border authorities have taken all measures to ensure that the situation on the border remain stable and controlled,” said Leonid Maltsev.

Source: BelTA

Author: Handbook on Belarus for International journalists

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