2021.07.29 15:07

Iraqi delegation in Lithuania a ‘positive sign’, but more EU involvement is needed – PM

BNS2021.07.29 15:07

Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė said she doubts the ability of the Iraqi delegation, which arrived in Lithuania this week, to help quickly solve the migration crisis.

"It's really not that an Iraqi official will take several hundred people with them on a plane, because people need to be identified," she told reporters on Thursday, adding that greater involvement of EU institutions should be expected as they have greater leverage to resolve the crisis.

Around two thirds of more than 3,200 migrants who have crossed into Lithuania from Belarus this year identified themselves as Iraqi citizens, according to Šimonytė.

"Very intensive work" with the counterparts from Baghdad is ongoing, she said, adding that the Iraqi delegation’s arrival itself "should be viewed as a positive sign".

"We put a lot of hope and weight into the contacts that the EU institutions have [with] Iraq or Turkey [...] given the fairly sizable leverage that can be used in those discussions," Šimonytė said.

The visiting Iraqi delegation is led by Abdul Kareem Toma Mehdi Kaab, head of the Iraqi Foreign Ministry's European department. He met with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis on Thursday.

"The minister welcomed the start of the diplomatic-consular mission's work agreed at the minister's visit in Baghdad. It is an important step towards dismantling illegal migration routes via the Belarusian-Lithuanian Lithuania border," the Foreign Ministry tweeted.

Landsbergis earlier visited Iraq, where he was reassured that the country would look into the issue. However, the Iraqi national airways later announced it would be doubling flights from Baghdad to Minsk.

The number of migrants crossing into Lithuania from Belarus increased from around a hundred annually to over 3,000 this year after Alexander Lukashenko said Belaurs would send "migrants and drugs" to Europe. Vilnius officials say the Minsk regime is responsible for facilitating the crossings, calling it “hybrid aggression” against the country.

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