Migrants Find New Path to EU as Lithuania Plugs Belarus Border
(Bloomberg) -- Days after Lithuania started tightening its border with Belarus, a growing number of migrants are walking into the European Union by crossing the ex-Soviet Republic’s frontier with Poland.
Polish border guards detained 132 people, mostly from Afghanistan, after they unlawfully entered the country from Belarus, the most ever over a two-day period, Katarzyna Zdanowicz, a spokeswoman for the border agency, said on Friday. At least 522 people have crossed the border without proper documentation this year.
This week, Lithuania pushed about 700 migrants back into Belarus after they crossed into the Baltic country, allowing only women with children to stay, Internal Affairs Minister Agne Bilotaite said. She said that, in response, Belarus placed more troops on the forest border between the two countries.
More than 4,100 undocumented immigrants have crossed into Lithuania from Belarus this year, 50 times more than in all of 2020. While the EU has pledged to help with the arrivals, the Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia jointly called on Friday for further sanctions against Belarus.
Slovenia, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, will host a meeting of justice and home affairs ministers on Aug. 18 to discuss unlawful migration from Belarus and the Lithuanian border situation.
The Lithuania-Belarus frontier poses a “serious security threat” for the 27-nation bloc, which has become a “witness to state-sponsored weaponization of illegal migration” from Belarus, Slovenia said in a letter sent to EU diplomats.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is allowing migrants to cross into the EU as he retaliates against both EU sanctions and Lithuania’s leading role in hosting his pro-democratic political rivals who fled a post-election crackdown last year.
In May, Lukashenko threatened to allow drugs, radioactive material and illegal migrants to flow into the EU unhindered, saying Belarus won’t prevent people from countries “abused by the West” from crossing into the bloc.
This week, Poland granted a humanitarian visa to a Belarusian sprinter who feared she would be sent to jail after she criticized a sports official halfway through the Olympic Games. A day after Krystsina Tsimanouskaya arrived in Warsaw, in the wake of her early departure from Tokyo, the athlete called for Belarusians to not be afraid of Lukashenko’s regime.
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