Lithuania migrant crisis sparks tensions with Belarus
UPDATED 8:07 AM PT – Sunday, July 4, 2021
Lithuania has declared a state of emergency amid an influx of migrants crossing the border from Belarus. Officials made the declaration late on Friday after border agents detained around 150 illegal migrants earlier in the week.
This highlights a trend in illegal immigration since the beginning of this year, where more than 800 people have tried to cross into Lithuania from Belarus. The deputy chief of Lithuania’s State Border Guard Service voiced his unease with the situation.
“We are concerned about the flows (of migrants). They are growing each day or week. This presents problems for the state and the service,” said Vidas Macitis.
Lithuania is now accusing Belarus of sending groups over the border on purpose. They cited previous threats from Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, vowing to retaliate against European Union sanctions on his rule by loosening border restrictions.
Today Frontex is providing European border guard teams to 🇱🇹 Lithuania and 🇱🇻 Latvia to support border control at their borders with Belarus. The operation starts with 10 officers and patrol cars. There will be more in the coming weeks 🤝 https://t.co/BjE8PmjutO pic.twitter.com/9BfSA3VwU3
— Frontex (@Frontex) July 1, 2021
In response to the situation, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pledged support for Lithuania, claiming their problems were the EU’s. She said this could include giving Lithuania access to EU emergency funds and sending EU Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex officers to help quell the migration crisis.
In the meantime, Lithuania’s foreign minister said the people may not be able to get political asylum in Lithuania and would need to return home. Additionally, top officials stress the need to bolster their immigration system to better respond to similar crises.