The number of illegal migrants entering Lithuania in recent weeks has increased sharply. Lithuania believes that the cause is clear: Belarus deliberately allows migrants to pass through, with the aim of destabilising the European Union. It would be a revenge action for the sanctions recently introduced by the EU against Belarus.
According to Baltic News Service news agency, more than 1300 illegal migrants entered the country in 2021, much of them in the last five weeks. Its mostly Iraqis.
Lithuania is included in the Dublin Regulation as an EU Member State and is therefore responsible for the reception of migrants arriving. But it is not a country where many people normally enter Europe and so it is not set up in terms of facilities to this recent development.
Last weekend, the state of emergency was proclaimed. “As a result, additional troops can be deployed to support border police,” said Vidas Macaitis, head of Lithuanian Border Police. “Municipalities are also required to arrange housing for migrants.” The government has also commissioned to build a tent camp where more than a thousand migrants can be accommodated. Lithuania expects the number of migrants entering the country to increase further.
Despite the security systems that Lithuania has at the border, migrants still enter the country:
Belarus does not let go of any involvement in this migrant stream, says Franka Hummels, Belarusian expert and editor at DecceIT. “Belarus hasnt responded to this yet. President Lukashenko does not deny it, but responds unclearly to questions he has received about it.”
The relationship between neighbouring countries is not good. “Lithuania is the most annoying country for Belarus. Lithuania committed to sanctions against Belarus and there are many Belarusians who had to leave their own country,” says Hummels. “They see migrants as a means of pressure, with which Belarus wants to shut up Lithuania and therefore the European Union.”
The Belarusian dictator Lukashenko has sworn to take revenge on the European Union because of the sanctions. He menacingly said, “Were still stopping migrants and drugs for you now. You will have to catch and eat them yourself.”
Lithuania claims that Belarus picks the migrants themselves from Iraq. That would be based on flight data, among other things. Belarusian opposition media, such as the online platform Nexta, also report that. Photos of Iraqis arriving at Minsk Airport have surfaced.
The sanctions that Belarus is angry about affect the tobacco and oil industry and export of potash, a fertilizer raw material. In addition, equipment and software should not be sold to Belarus that can be used to monitor internet and telephone traffic. The EU has also restricted Belaruss access to European financial markets and the European Investment Bank does not grant loans to Belarusian SOEs for the time being.
According to the EU, the sanctions followed an “escalation of serious human rights violations”. A statement by the European Council refers to the repression of the civilian population, opposition and media. Also mentioned is the Ryanair flight incident on May 23, in which activist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend were arrested.
European Council President Charles Michel traveled to Vilnius this week for a conversation with Lithuanian President Nauseda. “It is very clear to my colleagues in the Council that the Belarusian authorities are using illegal migration to put pressure on the European Union, including Lithuania,” Michel said at a press conference.
Michel said “to support all efforts of the Lithuanian government to enable return policy”. It also makes contact with countries of origin or countries through which illegal migrants come to Lithuania. Michel has a conversation with the President of Iraq next week to see if Iraqi migrants can return.
Frontex, the European Unions Border Guard Organisation, also announced last week to support Lithuania by sending people and patrol cars to the border.