Lithuania’s prime minister has revealed that Vilnius is planning to build a barrier on its border with Belarus as a way of curbing migration across the frontier, which has seen an increase in illegal crossings in recent weeks.
The move comes after Belarus decided to allow migrants to travel to the EU via Minsk, causing massively increased activity at the Lithuanian border crossing. The policy was enacted after Brussels imposed sanctions on Belarus over the arrest of activist Roman Protasevich.
The Lithuanian authorities believe the Belarusian government is to blame for the issues on the border, and have accused it of flying migrants from Syria and Iraq to Minsk and shuttling them to the frontier.
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Speaking on Wednesday, Ingrida Simonyte said that Lithuania would be building a wall between the two countries to stop the flow of migrants.
“We will begin building an additional physical barrier, which divides Lithuania and Belarus, which would be a certain sign and a certain deterrent to organizers of the illegal migration flows,” she told a news conference.
She also accused Minsk of using travel agencies to get more and more migrants, with the aim of taking them to the EU. The primary place of origin is Baghdad, she said, noting that documents from Minsk-based companies and boarding passes had been found on some people crossing the border.
The authorities declared a state of emergency due to the immigration situation on July 2. According to Lithuanian news site Delfi, during the first six months of 2021, 822 illegal migrants tried to enter the country. This is 10 times more than in 2020.
Last month, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis accused Minsk of “weaponized migration.”
“The reason? It’s quite easy to guess. We are outspoken, and we shelter the main opposition leaders,” he said.
Minsk and Vilnius have been regularly squaring off in recent months, with Lithuania now the most common country of choice for Belarusian dissidents. They include opposition figure and former presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who now lives in Vilnius. Her senior adviser Franak Viacorka, who is also attached to NATO’s Atlantic Council, also lives in the country.
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