Lithuania border, camps in state of emergency over migrants from Belarus

Belarusian and Lithuanian border mark poles are seen near a four-meter-high fence on the Belarusian border in Druskininkai, Lithuania November 4, 2021. REUTERS/Janis Laizans/File Photo

Lithuania’s parliament on Tuesday declared a state of emergency at the country’s border with Belarus and at camps hosting migrants who arrived from there, a tally of votes showed.

The state of emergency, which begins at midnight local time (2200 GMT) in the night of Tuesday to Wednesday and is to last a month, allows border guards to use “mental coercion” and “proportional physical violence” to prevent migrants from entering Lithuania.

EU member states accuse Belarus of encouraging illegal migrants from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa to cross the border into the EU in revenge for sanctions already slapped on Minsk over human rights abuses.

Lithuania’s declaration bans all travel to within five kilometres (three miles) of the Belarus border, unless allowed by border guards. Mobile phones could be taken away from migrants and public gatherings near the border and in the camps could be forbidden.

“The state of emergency is needed to use … extraordinary measures to remove the serious threat posed to society by the massive influx of foreigners,” the motion before parliament said.

The measures would also deter anyone seeking to aid migrants, Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte told parliament.

“People who live, and work (near the border) will be able to continue to do so, but people who want to get there to, for instance, pick up the migrants and ferry them to another territory – it will be harder for them to do so,” Simonyte said.

Lithuania on Monday said it was moving troops to the Belarus border to prepare for a possible influx of migrants.


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