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2020.12.02 16:00

Lithuania waives visa fees for Belarusians fleeing repressions

BNS2020.12.02 16:00

Lithuania has waived visa fees for Belarusians trying to flee from Alexander Lukashenko's regime.

"That means that all Belarusians coming [to Lithuania] on humanitarian grounds will be issued national visas free of charge," Evelina Gudzinskaite, director of the Migration Department, told BNS.

At present, Belarusian citizens facing repressions can turn to the Lithuanian embassy or consular services to apply for a visa under the so-called humanitarian exception, or lodge an asylum claim at the border.

According to the country's Foreign Ministry, the measure was necessary because an increasing number of Belarusian citizens are seeking protection from regime violence.

Belarus has been engulfed in mass protests following the rigged August 9 presidential election that saw Alexander Lukashenko declare victory. Security forces have used violence to suppress people demonstrating against Lukashenko's 26-year rule.

Read more: Belarusian torture victim asks Lithuania to launch probe into regime violence

In mid-August, Lithuania began offering visas for Belarusians fleeing repressions. Although they had been issued Schengen visas, they need national visas to stay in the country long-term, according to the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry.

Lithuania's Acting Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius told the cabinet that the consular fee currently amounts to 60 euros and asylum seekers usually have it paid for them by non-governmental organisations.

Figures from the Migration Department show that Lithuania has issued 1,354 visas to Belarusian citizens on humanitarian grounds between September 21 and December 1. A total of 5,696 national visas were issued to Belarusians during the period, mostly for work.

Read more: Zhyve Belarus from Minsk to Vilnius – where does the slogan come from?