News

2020.08.12 17:00

Lithuania readies for potential refugees from Belarus

BNS2020.08.12 17:00

Lithuania's authorities are ready to respond to possible tensions on the border with Belarus and are preparing premises to quarantine refugees, Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said on Wednesday.

Skvernelis was commenting on the Cabinet's decision to ease the coronavirus border crossing restrictions to allow arrivals from Belarus "for humanitarian purposes".

"Today, the government discussed primarily the issue of ensuring the security of our borders if the situation in Belarus destabilised and people tried to enter our country for humanitarian reasons – refugees, asylum seekers," the prime minister told reporters.

"Our state border guard service or other institutions are ready to respond decisively, swiftly and adequately to possible tensions at the border to ensure the security of our state borders," he added.

There is a mechanism for how to deal with political asylum seekers from Belarus and where to isolate them to prevent the spread of the coronavirus from the neighbouring country, according to Skvernelis.

"Apart from that political tension in Belarus, we have a really very bad Covid-19 situation there", he noted.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Cabinet lifted coronavirus travel restrictions for foreign students and investors, and people from Belarus seeking entry "for special humanitarian purposes".

Read more: Lithuania allows Belarusians to enter 'for humanitarian purposes'

The exact procedures should be confirmed on Thursday, according to a government spokesman.

According to the Migration Department, over 21,100 Belarusian citizens currently have residence permits in Lithuania. Lithuania has granted asylum to a total of 55 Belarusian citizens over the past decade.

The department told BNS on Wednesday that no Belarusian citizens had applied for asylum in August.