Lithuania’s Border Guard announced that it had detained 171 people illegally crossing the border from Belarus on Tuesday night. This is the highest number of detained migrants in a single day in the Baltic country this year, the AP agency wrote. Lithuanian security forces detained a total of 3,027 refugees this year.
All 171 detainees are from Iraq and will be placed in one of Lithuania’s detention centers, the border guard said. However, detention centers in the country are already full. In July alone, security forces detained over 2,300 migrants; a month earlier, the number was 473. Last year, only 81 refugees were detained.
Illegal migration to Lithuania from Belarus began to increase dramatically after new sanctions from the West were imposed on the Belarusian regime.
Lithuania, which has given refuge to many Belarusian opposition politicians, accuses the regime of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko of allowing migrants from the Middle East and Africa to cross the common border, which is the external border of both the European Union and the Schengen area. Vilnius believes that most people who have recently been trying to get to the Baltic countries have traveled by airplanes from Iraq to Belarus.
According to Reuters, Lukashenko said this month that his country is now guarding the borders to the extent that it is convenient, and as much as it can afford. At the end of May, Interfax reported on Lukashenko’s alleged statement that Belarus was a barrier to illegal migrants and drug trafficking to Lithuania, but given political pressure from the West, Minsk would consider whether it would pay off.
Lithuania recently passed a law restricting the rights of migrants crossing the border with Belarus, which has provoked criticism from human rights defenders. It also began building a 550-kilometer barbed wire barrier at the border. This week, some migrants in Lithuania revolted and demanded their release from the refugee camp. Elsewhere in the country, locals protested against the construction of a new facility for migrants.
Title image: A migrant from Iraq stands in a sport hall where refugees live in a school building at the refugee camp in the village of Verebiejai, some 150km (99 miles) south from Vilnius, Lithuania, on Sunday, July 11, 2021. Lithuania has struggled with a flow of migrants from the Middle East and Africa, a huge influx that officials in the tiny Baltic country say was organized by Belarusian authorities as part of a “hybrid war” against the European Union. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)