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2021.07.05 15:59

Lithuania to speed up asylum process, build new tent camp

BNS2021.07.05 15:59

Lithuania is looking to cut asylum request processing time to 10 days amid a growing influx of irregular migration via Belarus, Lithuanian Interior Minister Agnė Bilotaitė told reporters on Monday.

"An order has been given to find solutions for the procedure to become as short as possible, [...] up to ten days," she said in Vilnius.

The process now takes longer, because many migrants have no documents, refuse to identify themselves and provide information about their country of origin, she added.

Lithuanian officials are now consulting their Greek counterparts, according to Bilotaitė. Lithuanian delegations are also going to Iraq and Turkey this week to discuss the return of migrants.

"We have evidence that there are similar foreigners' registration centers in Belarus to the one we have here, and those people from those centers are being intentionally brought to Lithuania,” Bilotaitė said.

“We also have information that students who probably studied in Belarus, they are also being taken to Lithuania, using certain measures, in an organized manner. This is intentional and well-organised action against Lithuania," she added.

Lithuania has seen a major influx of undocumented migrants crossing in from Belarus, with some 1,200 people detained over the past several months, including 134 on Sunday. This stands in sharp contrast to 81 irregular migrants detained in 2020, 46 in 2019, and 104 in 2018.

The government declared a state-level emergency situation on Friday, with officials saying the Belarusian regime is using migrants to pressure Lithuania.

New tent camp to be built this week

A new tent camp in addition to the one established in Pabradė, eastern Lithuania, will also be built later this week, according to the interior minister.

"The location is now being selected to have certain things, like water and electricity, in mind to make it simpler. But we are definitely not thinking about very comfortable conditions," Bilotaitė said.

The tent camp will be situated further from densely populated territories, and the tents will include "basic living needs", she said, adding that the Interior Ministry has also called a tender for modular units.

Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius has also called to build fences on the border "to send a message to the international community and potential migrants" that Lithuania is not a country that "keeps gates open" for foreigners to reach Western Europe.

"Our neighbours are obviously waging a hybrid war, Lithuania really needs a clear response to that. Collecting migrants near the border or somewhere else, bringing them in and accommodating them is what we need to do for humanitarian reasons,” he said.

“But that's not enough as we need either a fence [...] or other measures to ensure that there are fewer of them. As today we have a problem of hundreds [of undocumented migrants] and we can have a problem of thousands, if it's not resolved fundamentally," the mayor said.

Vilnius authorities are also considering accepting and accommodating refugees in their premises at least for up to ten days, Šimašius added.

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