SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 3 August 2021, Tuesday |

Lithuania says Belarus is flying in migrants, plans border barrier

Lithuania on Wednesday accused Belarus of flying in migrants and said it would build a barrier on the border to prevent them crossing illegaly into its territory.

Belarus decided to allow migrants to cross into Lithuania in response to European Union sanctions imposed after Minsk forced a Ryanair flight to land on its territory and arrested a dissident blogger aboard.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said Belarus has been offering migrants flights to Minsk, citing evidence found on at least one migrant who had reached Lithuania.

“There are travel agencies, direct flights that connect Minsk with Baghdad for example, and there are agencies both in Belarus and other countries that operate and attract ‘tourists’ to Minsk,” Simonyte told Reuters.

She said the main airport from where people flew into Belarus was Baghdad, but she would not rule out people also flying in from Istanbul.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on May 26 that his country would no longer prevent migrants from crossing its western border into the EU.

Simonyte said Lithuania would take action to stop migrants crossing the border by increasing patrols and building a barrier.

“We will begin building an additional physical barrier, which divides Lithuania and Belarus, which would be a certain sign and a certain deterrent to organisers of the illegal migration flows,” she told a news conference.

She also said the country, a Schengen free travel area member, was considering imposing border controls with neighbouring EU countries to stop the migrants travelling from it towards Western EU countries.