EU deploys border force in Lithuania as Belarus allows migrants to cross into the Baltic country.
The EU’s border protection agency on Monday said it was mobilizing a rapid intervention force to Lithuania, where the government has accused neighboring Belarus of allowing hundreds of migrants to cross illegally into the country, Politicio.eu reports.
“It seems like the Belarusian authorities now facilitate irregular migration possibly in retaliation to EU restrictive measures and as a response to the Lithuanian support for the civil society in Belarus,” the EU’s commissioner for home affairs, Ylva Johansson, testified in the European Parliament.
According to statistics from the Lithuanian Border Guard Service, quoted by Politico, a total of 1,714 irregular migrants crossed the Lithuanian border in 2021, compared to just 74 in 2020. Of these, 1,676 arrived from Belarus.
While many of the migrants that have crossed into Lithuania seem to be of Iraqi or Syrian origin, there have also been migrants from African countries.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said his country was struggling to return migrants to their home countries. Landsbergis called for additional sanctions against Belarus and said other countries using such tactics should face similar punishment.
Official entities, such as airlines and tourist agencies, are involved in organised human trafficking via Belarus and could face sanctions, foreign minister Landsbergis, told Euractiv.com.
Belarus president Lukashenko said last week his government would not close its borders with its neighbours and become a “holding site” for migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa. He added that such migrants were not wanting to come to Belarus but to “the enlightened, warm and cozy Europe”, reports Euractiv.com.