Riga, Jan 4 (EFE).- Lithuania’s president Gitanas Nauseda said on Tuesday he was in favor of lifting the state of emergency on the country’s border with Belarus, a measure declared last summer after a sharp increase in irregular border crossing attempts by migrants.
The state of emergency is due to end January 14, but could be extended.
“I think in a situation like the one we have now, it would certainly make sense to consider lifting the state of emergency, because it is a really strong instrument that we have to use in exceptional circumstances,” Nauseda told a local radio station.
Nauseda said the migration problem was “solved for now” after 98 Iraqi migrants voluntarily agreed to return home on Sunday.
The migrants left on what was described as the first ‘repatriation charter flight’ to bring irregular border crossers back home, an operation organized by the State Border Guard Service (VSAT), the Interior Ministry and Vilnius Airport.
The migrants who agree to leave Lithuania on a voluntary basis are being paid 1,000 euros but some 540 migrants have already left the country by other means, according to official data.
Almost all attempts to cross the border have been turned back after some 4,200 irregular border crossers arrived in Lithuania last summer and were taken to camps for asylum seekers.
The ‘push back’ of people at the border has been criticized by human rights organizations who say the treatment of migrants at the border enduring freezing weather conditions has been “cruel.”.
Lithuanian officials claim migrants who are ill, pregnant, elderly or with small children are often admitted for humanitarian reasons. EFE