Wednesday, July 6

Belarus lets in hundreds of Iraqis to fill Lithuania with refugees

Correspondent in Brussels



The Belarusian dictator Viktor Lukashenko has decided to imitate King Mohamed VI of Morocco and has begun to allow the passage of migrants without documentation to the closest European border is that of Lithuania. In June, more than 410 people illegally crossed the border between Belarus and Lithuania, a figure that is vastly higher than what had been recorded in the sum of the previous four years. The Lithuanian Ministry of the Interior has accused the Belarusian authorities of helping migrants cross the border and ignoring the necessary collaboration with Lithuanian police officials. Belarus’ attitude is seen as a response to the sanctions imposed by the EU on the regime for forcibly diverting an airliner in order to detain an exiled dissident traveling from Athens to Vilnius.

Most of the people who have entered Lithuania are Iraqis who have flown from Baghdad to Minsk and from there they are limited to crossing the border with Lithuania without being disturbed by the Belarusian border guards. The requests for cooperation made by the Lithuanian authorities are ignored by the Lukashenko dictatorship, which justifies the situation by arguing that it is due to the easing of travel restrictions that would have been decreed in many countries.

In the first six months of this year, Lithuania has received twice as many illegal immigrants than in the previous four years together. The vast majority of those who have crossed the border into Lithuania come from the Middle East, two-thirds are Iraqis. There are also numerous Iranians and Syrians. They cross the border in groups through wooded areas thanks to the passivity of the Belarusian authorities and a quarter are children. Most of them arrive without documents or with badly damaged papers and insist on speaking only Kurdish, which greatly complicates the management of the Lithuanian Police.

The issue has reached the European Parliament where this week it will be discussed in plenary. The leader of the popular group, the largest in the European Parliament, has advanced that he will ask the deployment of the Frontex border agency in Lithuania to try to control the situation and has asked at the same time that the Iraqi authorities be urged to accept a readmission agreement to take care of citizens who do not meet the conditions to stay on European territory.

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