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2021.07.20 14:03

Lithuanian president may veto migrant bill, says human rights ‘thrown into trash’

BNS2021.07.20 14:03

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda mulls vetoing new laws restricting the country's asylum rules, his adviser has said, adding that the legislation threw the human rights of migrants “into the trash bin”.

“Every third phrase used in the rhetoric of the current parliamentary majority is ‘human rights’. Interestingly, when this law was being adopted, human rights were probably forgotten and thrown into the trash bin, because migrants were left without any human rights, with no right to appeal,” Nausėda's chief domestic policy adviser Povilas Mačiulis told the radio Žinių Radijas on Tuesday.

Read more: Lithuania adopts law restricting rights of irregular migrants

During an extraordinary session last week, the Lithuanian parliament adopted amendments to the Law on the Legal Status of Aliens, changing the country's asylum rules. Among other things, the legislation allows detaining irregular migrants for up to six months, cuts the processing time of their asylum applications and curbs their right to appeal the decision.

Some legal experts, including former Constitutional Court chairman Dainius Žalimas, have called the amendments unconstitutional. NGOs have said the amendments will violate human rights and put vulnerable people in danger.

Read more: No right to appeal and mass detentions: Lithuania's new migrant laws draw criticism

According to Mačiulis, President Nausėda is thinking whether to veto the legislation and will make the decision shortly.

“Now the big question is whether to veto this bill with a proposal, or [...] given the current context and situation, to sign it into law in the hope that the parliament and the government will amend it at the start of the autumn session,” Mačiulis said.

The parliament passed the amendments during an extraordinary session last week, in reaction to an unprecedented influx of irregular migrants from Belarus.

Read more: Baghdad to Lithuania: how Belarus opened new migration route to EU – LRT Investigation

Interior minister: we defend national security

Interior Minister Agnė Bilotaitė has responded to criticism of the legislation by insisting that the government is defending national security interests.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Interior Ministry claimed the amended asylum rules were in line with EU law and ensured migrants' rights to legal defence.

According to Bilotaitė, the changes were needed because of the suddenly intensified flow of irregular migrants who “abuse the asylum procedure”.

“In response to that, we had to change certain legal provisions and thus prevent disruptions to the migration system and the courts by a large number of asylum applications,” Bilotaitė is quoted in the statement.

“Lithuania is a state with the rule of law and seeks to ensure compliance with national and international law in the area of human rights. However, the emergency situation over the mass influx of illegal migrants from Belarus is causing major challenges for Lithuania. Our country protects the European Union's external border, therefore, we are forced to take urgent action at the national level,” the interior minister said.

According to Bilotaitė, every country has the right to control the arrival, presence and deportation of foreigners, taking international commitments into account.

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