Lithuania declares emergency due to migration from Belarus

DM Monitoring

LONDON: While tensions between the European Union and Belarus escalate, a state of emergency was declared in Lithuania due to an influx of migrants in the last few days from neighboring Belarus.
Lithuania’s Interior Minister Agle Bilotaite said late Friday that the decision, proposed by the State Border Guard Service, was necessary not because of an increased threat to the country of 2.8 million people but to put a more robust system into place to handle migrants coming in.
“It’s very important to have a legal system and instruments … to be able to swiftly make decisions in response to arising challenges,” Bilotaite said during a government meeting Friday evening, according to the Baltic News Service.
Belarus’ authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko has warned that his country would retaliate against the latest EU sanctions on his regime by loosening border controls for undocumented migrants. The bloc tightened sanctions against Belarus after Lukashenko’s government forced a passenger plane to divert and land and arrested a prominent journalist on the flight.
Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte’s Cabinet declared the emergency after border officials reported Friday that they had detained about 150 illegal migrants in the last day who had crossed over from Belarus, with whom Lithuania shares a 679-kilometer (422-mile) border.
That number of detained migrants at the Belarus border is three times higher than the previous daily record, Lithuanian officials said. CCTV footage released by the Lithuanian border guard showed migrants jumping over a fence separating Belarus and Lithuania and either crawling, walking or running to the Lithuanian side.
According to the Baltic News Service, most of the migrants have already sought asylum in Lithuania and include citizens of Afghanistan, Cameroon, Iraq and Syria. Lithuania has set up tent camps to accommodate the growing number of migrants.
Mantas Adomenas, Lithuania’s vice minister for foreign affairs, said the main problem was identifying migrants who arrive with no documents.
“We’re now talking about how to identify them, give them documents so that economic migrants can be returned to their country of origin,” Adomenas told broadcaster LNK Lithuania.