2021.07.05 09:26

Lithuania declares state-level emergency over migration

Milena Andrukaitytė, Paulius Viluckas, BNS2021.07.05 09:26

The Lithuanian government declared a state-level emergency situation on Friday night over the influx of migrants.

Interior Minister Agnė Bilotaitė was appointed head of emergency state operations.

She says the decision was necessary not because of any increased threats, but to facilitate decisions on logistics, funding and other things.

“It's not a situation of huge challenges we cannot cope with, but it’s very important to have a legal system and instruments, technical and logistical instrument, to be able to swiftly make decision in response to the challenges,” Bilotaitė said during the Cabinet meeting on Friday night.

Earlier in the day, the State Border Guard Service proposed declaring a state-level emergency after border guards detained 150 irregular migrants in one day, three time more than the previous record. The government's emergency commission later backed the proposal.

A declared state-level emergency will allow getting additional forces involved, facilitating public procurement procedures, and municipalities would be obliged to provide accommodation for the migrants.

Municipalities asked to get involved

All Lithuanian municipalities had been asked to consider accommodating migrants, Interior Minister Bilotaitė said, adding that the authorities are also considering to mobilise the military.

The minister also said that she had ordered to start building a tent camp for more than 1,000 people.

“I’d like to say that we have approached all Lithuanian municipalities and asked to provide all information, by July 7, about possibilities to accommodate illegal migrants and specify their financial and other needs,” Bilotaitė said during a news conference in the district of Varėna late on Sunday.

“This issue is not limited just to tents, it also involves logistics, catering and hygiene,” she added.

All institutions of the Ministry of the Interior would be involved in efforts to ensure the population’s safety, she said.

The authorities also consider mobilising volunteer troops “to help us handle the situation” and ensure order in the communities where the migrants will be accommodated.

“I’d like to assure that the Ministry of the Interior will ensure full protection and will involve all its institutions – the police, border guards, public security officers – for this purpose and will also ask the Riflemen’s Union for assistance,” the minister said.

The minister also said that the competent authorities were making decisions on additional infrastructure for accommodating migrants, which included a number of modular houses that would be built by July 28 and the hangars under construction in the municipality of Druskininkai.

Border guards detained nearly 280 irregular migrants over the weekend, 116 on Saturday and 160 on Sunday, the State Border Guard Service (VSAT) reported. Most of them crossed the Lithuanian border in the municipality of Druskininkai. Another 134 stopped migrants were reported on Monday morning.

A total of 1,232 irregular migrants have been detained by border guards in Lithuania so far this year.

Lithuanian officials believe that Belarusian authorities are involved in trafficking migrants. Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė said on Friday that she believed that the influx of illegal migrants from Belarus was the Minsk government's revenge for the European Union’s sanctions.

Read more: Lithuanian border guards call for national emergency after stopping record number of migrants

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