Belarus moves to stop Lithuania from sending back migrants

Lithuania, a member of the European Union, has faced an influx of mostly Iraqi migrants in the past few months.

Published: 06th August 2021 09:14 PM  |   Last Updated: 06th August 2021 09:14 PM   |  A+A-

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko (Photo | AP)

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko (Photo | AP)

By Associated Press

KYIV: Belarus' border protection agency said on Friday that it tightened control along its border with Lithuania to prevent Lithuanian authorities from sending migrants back to Belarus.

Lithuania, a member of the European Union, has faced an influx of mostly Iraqi migrants in the past few months.

It accused the government of Belarus' authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko of encouraging the migrant flow in retaliation for the EU sanctions against his country following the diversion of a passenger plane to arrest a dissident journalist aboard.

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Lukashenko responded on Thursday by ordering defense and security agencies to "close every meter of the border" in order not to let immigrants Lithuania turns away back into Belarus.

"God forbid they start implementing the policy of removing people they invited over there through official border crossing points," Lukashenko said during a meeting with defense and security officials.

"Starting from today, not a single person should set foot on the territory of Belarus from the opposite side, be it from the south or from the west."

Belarus state TV posted a picture of Belarusian border guards standing in a line to close the border while a migrant with a child sits at their feet.

"The border guards used all necessary means to prevent the unlawful crossing of the border in view of the current situation under which the Lithuanian side is taking foreign citizens seeking refuge in the EU to the border," the Belarus State Border Committee said in Friday's statement.

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It said it created mobile tactical groups to patrol the entire length of the border to prevent Lithuania from sending migrants back into Belarus.

Authorities in Belarus this week alleged that Iraqi immigrants forcibly expelled from Lithuania and sent back to Belarus had injuries, including dog bites, and had to be hospitalized.

Belarus also claimed Wednesday that a "non-Slavic" person died from injuries at a border town but Lithuania dismissed the report as propaganda from a hostile regime.

Lithuania, a nation of less than 3 million people, has no physical barriers on its 679-kilometer (420-mile) long border with Belarus.

More than 4,100 migrants, most of them from Iraq, have crossed this year from Belarus into Lithuania.



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