Lithuania’s measures to curb irregular migration criticized

Riga, Jul 14 (EFE).- Lithuania’s emergency measures to restrict the rights of irregular migrants have drawn criticism from legal scholars and human rights organizations in the Baltic country that has seen more than 1,700 mostly non-Belarusians arrive from Belarus in recent weeks.

The new law allows Lithuanian authorities to detain people who cross the border illegally for up to six months and restrict their rights to appeal decisions that deny them political or humanitarian asylum.

Former Constitutional Court chairman Dainius Zalimas, has called the measures “legislative nihilism” that “deprived asylum seekers of their right to appeal,” according to Lithuanian public television Wednesday.

“The law is a potential human rights violation, and it does not correspond to European Union (EU) directives,” Egle Samuchovaite of the Lithuanian Red Cross told journalists.

“It enshrines the current bad situation in Lithuania’s detention centers in law and leaves vulnerable people in an even more vulnerable situation.”

The influx of irregular migrants from the Middle East and Africa has led to the Lithuanian authorities to hastily build camps to house the arrivals, who have been encouraged to transit through Belarus by the country’s dictator Alexander Lukashenko.

Lithuanian officials have described this as a form of hybrid warfare by Belarus in retaliation for Lithuania granting asylum to Belarusian dissidents, including opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, and for leading calls to impose sanctions on Minsk after it diverted a Ryanair flight between Athens and the Lithuanian capital Vilnius to detain an opposition journalist who was traveling on board.

The number of irregular migrants arriving in Lithuania from Belarus this year was more than 20 times the number detained in all of 2020. More than 800 of the 1,716 people detained so far are from Iraq.

While EU countries have banned flights to and from Belarus and suspended landing rights for the Belarus national airline Belavia, flights carrying migrants from Turkey and other countries to the Belarus capital Minsk have continued.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis Wednesday called on Turkey to cut flights to Belarus, to identify migrants and to investigate and curb their travels. EFE

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