By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – Lithuania has accused neighboring Belarus of flying in migrants from abroad to send to the European Union where they seek a better life. As a result, the government says it plans to build a barrier on the border and deploy troops to prevent them from crossing illegally into its territory.
Border security forces already halted migrants desperately seeking a better life. At Lithuania’s frontier with Belarus, authorities say they cope with a massive influx from people fleeing war, persecution, and poverty.
Hundreds have been making the crossing in recent days. Nearly 800 entered Lithuania from Belarus in the first week of July alone, official estimates show. Many left troubled nations in the Middle East and Africa.
The government of this Baltic nation has now declared a state of emergency. Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė has accused Belarus encouraging migrants to enter the EU. “There are travel agencies and direct flights that connect Minsk with Baghdad, for example. And there are agencies both in Belarus and other countries that operate and attract ‘tourists,’ I put that in inverted commas, to Minsk,” the Irish minister explained. “So we have detained people who had passports with visas and invitations from Belarus through operators,” Šimonytė recalled.
“The other source is people from African countries of whom we see a significant number during recent days. They claim to be students, or ex-students, from high schools,” she added.
Belarus decided to allow migrants to cross into European Union member Lithuania in response to sanctions imposed by the bloc. The 27-member EU took the measures after Minsk forced a Ryanair passenger plane to land on its soil and detained a dissident journalist on board.
In addition, the autocratic president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, has named Lithuania as among the countries seeking the overthrow of his government.
He is also furious that Lithuania has refused to extradite Belarus opposition figures, such as Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. She lost to Lukashenko in an August 9 presidential election that critics said was rigged.
However, Lithuania’s Interior Minister Agnė Bilotaitė suggests that Belarus is seeking to destabilize Europe. “This is not a normal illegal migrant crisis. This situation is a hybrid war against Lithuania,” she claimed.
The minister wants to build an anti-migration barrier along her nation’s 679-kilometer (422-mile) border with Belarus. EU member Hungary, which took similar measures, supports the move.
Lithuania’s foreign ministry has also summoned the head of the Belarus embassy to demand that Minsk end the flow of illegal migrants.
But there are no signs yet that the influx will stop any time soon.
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