14 July 2021
In response to the increased number of people making irregular crossings from Belarus into Lithuania - which the Lithuanian government has referred to as a form of "hybrid warfare" waged by the Belarussian government in response to EU sanctions - the government in Vilnius has adopted a harsh array of repressive measures against migrants and refugees.
"Lithuanian parliament votes to allow mass detention of asylum seekers
Lithuania’s parliament on Tuesday (13 July) approved the mass detention of migrants and curbed their right of appeal, a move meant to deter high numbers crossing the border with Belarus but which stirred an outcry among humanitarian groups.
Eighty-four lawmakers supported the bill, with one objection and 5 abstentions, brushing aside protests from Red Cross and other non-governmental organizations saying it violates Lithuania’s international obligations and migrant rights.
Lithuanian and EU officials have accused Belarus of using illegal migrants as a political weapon to exert pressure on the European Union because of the bloc’s sanctions on Minsk. More than 1,700 people have entered Lithuania from its non-EU neighbour this year, including 1,100 in July alone.
Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said the detention policy would prevent migrants from illegally travelling onwards to the more affluent west of the EU – the favoured destination of the vast majority of migrants reaching EU territory in recent years.
The new law bans any release of migrants from detention for six months after their arrival, curbs the right of appeal for rejected asylum-seekers and stipulates that migrants can be deported while their appeals are considered.
“The law is a potential human rights violation, and it does not correspond to EU directives,” Lithuanian Red Cross programme director Egle Samuchovaite told Reuters.
The new law removes most rights accorded to migrants such as the right to a translator or to obtain information about their status and the asylum process.
Lithuanian authorities are now obliged only to provide upkeep in detention, medical care and legal aid, but Simonyte said the government will try to do more."
Source: EurActiv, 14 July 2021
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