Between Wednesday and Thursday, Lithuanian border guards forced more than 300 migrants back across the border from Belarus, the Lithuanian news agency reported. BNS. Border guards were ordered to take stricter measures against the flow of migrants trying to enter the country from the neighbor to the east.
In response, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko ordered his army to “close every meter” of the border so that migrants crossing the border into Lithuania could not return.
More than 4,100 migrants have been arrested in Lithuania after crossing the border from Belarus without a permit so far this year, compared to 81 for all of 2020. Most of them are Iraqi nationals.
pressure on Iraq
Lithuania and the European Union claim that the reason for the sharp increase is that Belarus attracts migrants and helps them cross the border in order to pay. The aim is to put pressure on Lithuania and the European Union in response to the economic sanctions imposed on Belarus.
The European Union promised financial support to help Lithuania deal with the situation. Among other things, the union has sent more than 100 border guards from the border control agency Frontex, cars, thermal cameras and staff from the EU’s asylum agency, according to EU Migration Commissioner Ylva Johansson, who recently visited the Lithuanian border with Belarus.
“It is also important to put pressure on Iraq through diplomatic channels to get them to make fewer trips and take back those who can’t stay,” Johansson told TT.
– They don’t seem to need protection, but these are other migrants. All those tried were rejected.
The European Union negotiated with Baghdad to reduce the number of flights from Iraq to Minsk to reduce pressure on the border. And information came, on Thursday, about the suspension of flights between Iraq and Minsk for a period of ten days. The Iraqi government is also said to have formed a committee to investigate allegations of Iraqi migrants being smuggled into Lithuania via Belarus.
– We also have contacts with other countries, but the main road is Iraq, says Elva Johansson.
Meanwhile, the Lithuanian government says it has received indications that Lukashenko is trying to bring in immigrants from several countries by relaxing visa rules, as entry from Iraq may be difficult in the future.
“It was reported last week that Lukashenko was discussing with Morocco and now we have heard Pakistan as well,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrieleus Landsbergis told Lithuanian TV channel LRT.
stuck in camp
In Lithuania, migrants are stuck in tent camps, without having the opportunity to move to the European Union. According to Elva Johansson, who met the migrants at the border, they were misinformed about how easy it is for Belarus to enter the EU.
– They received information that you can only travel to Lithuania and from there you can easily get to the European Union. Elva Johansson says they were upset sitting there.
The Red Cross warned on Wednesday that Lithuania’s decision to ban refugees trying to cross the border is not in line with international law.
Elva Johansson believes, however, that Lithuania is handling the situation in a good way. She believes that very few migrants have attempted to enter the country through a border point.
– They slipped across the border in uncontrolled places and you have no right to do so. Elva Johansson says the European Union does not have open borders.
Facts: The wave of immigration to Lithuania
EU member Lithuania recently declared a national emergency due to an increase in the number of people crossing the border from Belarus.
In May, Belarus forced a passenger plane to disembark to Minsk to arrest a journalist critical of the regime. The European Union responded with harsh sanctions. In turn, Belarusian President Lukashenko ordered to stop cooperation with the European Union to stop illegal immigration.
According to Lithuania, Belarus encourages immigrants to travel there by granting them tourist visas and cooperating with travel agencies. Belarusian authorities will then charge a fee to help migrants enter Lithuania.
The Lithuanian authorities managed to show videos in which large groups of migrants are escorted to the border with Lithuania by Belarusian border guards.
Lithuania began building a barrier along the border with Belarus to defend itself against immigrants from there.
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