Some migrants crossing into Lithuania from Belarus claim to be foreign students forced to drop out due to tuition fee hikes.
Lithuania is currently experiencing an unprecedented increase in irregular migration. Lithuanian officials believe that Belarusian authorities are involved in migrant smuggling.
Most of the over 1,200 migrants detained by Lithuanian border guards so far this year are citizens of Iraq and Syria. However, a number of people from African countries were stopped over the weekend, claiming to be students of Belarusian universities, says Antanas Motvidas, deputy director of Lithuania's State Border Guard Service (VSAT).
“We have information from initial interviews that these individuals were studying in Grodno schools. Tuition fees were raised and they were expelled from the schools for not paying the fees,” Montvidas told LRT RADIO on Monday.
According to him, these migrants said they were citizens of Egypt, Gambia, Senegal, Togo, Congo, Ivory Coast, and Benin.
“As Lithuania is closest to Grodno, they chose to come to Lithuania, through the Druskininkai checkpoint,” said Montvidas.
The migrants told Lithuanian officers that they were evicted from university dormitories by Belarusian police officers, forcing them to travel to Lithuania, Montvidas said, adding that the claims still needed corroboration.
“The conclusion we draw is that Belarusian institutions are enabling irregular migration from Belarus to Lithuania,” he said.
The VSAT reported over 500 irregular migrants stopped crossing from Belarus over the last four days. Most of them, 416, were reported in the municipality of Druskininkai, southern Lithuania.