Belarus: Expert discusses ‘influx’ of migrants to Lithuania
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Latvia and Lithuania have taken action against Belarus this week in a bid to curb the flow of migrants from the country. Western nations have condemned the recent actions from Belarus and have taken steps to tighten sanctions against the regime of the Belarusian leader, a year after he was re-elected as the country’s leader despite accusations of election rigging.
Latvia declared a state of emergency on Tuesday at its Belarusian border.
Border guards, armed forces and police have been empowered to use physical force to return migrants to the country from which they came.
Latvia has experienced an influx of entrants in recent months from Belarus, most of which are Iraqi migrants.
The nation has taken steps to implement a state of emergency which began today (August 11) and will continue until November 10.
The state of emergency in Latvia requires approval from Parliament, which is expected on Thursday.
About 283 people have been detained for illegally entering into Latvia since August 6 according to the Baltic News Service (BNS).
The organisation added this brings the total for 2021 so far to 343 people.
Latvia also intends to build a fence to stem the flow of migrants in addition to the state of emergency – two moves which it has described as “hybrid warfare”.
The nation of Lithuania which also shares a border with Belarus has taken steps to curb migrants entering the country.
Lithuania has erected a four-metre fence to deter migrants entering illegally from Belarus.
The metal fence is topped with razor wire on 315 miles of the 416-mile border the nation shares with Belarus.
Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite told Reuters: “Without this physical barrier, it is impossible to protect our borders, it is very clear.”
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Last week, Poland and Lithuania called on European institutions to assist them in dealing with a surge in illegal migration from Belarus.
Poland accused Belarus of sending a growing number of migrants over the border in retaliation for Warsaw’s decision to give refuge to Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanoskaya who refused to return home after the Tokyo Olympics.
In a joint statement, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonytr said: “We condemn the weaponisation of irregular migration by the Lukashenko regime with a goal of exerting political pressure on the EU and its individual Member States.”
Over the course of two days last week, 133 illegal migrants were stopped at the Poland/Belarus border.
This compares to 122 migrants stopped over the course of 2020.
So far in 2021, 4,026 people have illegally crossed into Lithuania from Belarus – this is compared to 74 in total during 2020.
Most of these illegal migrants hail from Iraq, but others also travel from the Republic of Congo and Cameroon, according to the Lithuanian Border Guard.
Tensions have escalated between Belarus and its neighbouring nations since August last year when a disputed election returned President Alexander Lukashenko to power despite mass protests against his regime.
Two Belarusian sport coaches were stripped of their Olympics accreditations in the last week over an alleged attempt to force Ms Tsimanoskaya home in an incident which prompted international condemnation.
This week, the United States, UK and Canada levied more sanctions against Belarus.
The British Government said the move would stop Belarusian air carriers from flying over or landing in Britain and broadened a litany of financial sanctions because of “the continued undermining of democracy and human rights violations”.
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