2021.08.03 11:30

Lithuania mulls €150m border fence, offering migrants money to leave

BNS2021.08.03 11:30

The Lithuanian State Border Guard Service (VSAT) has proposed to erect a four-meter-high welded wire mesh fence along the border with Belarus, estimating the cost at more than 150 million euros.

“We are planning to build [a fence of] at least four metres from the ground, with concertina wire, on the state border,” Deputy VSAT Commander Colonel Vidas Macaitis told BNS on Monday.

The fence will be “reinforced so that it cannot not be cut easily”, he added.

The Y-shaped fence would run for 508 kilometers along the border with Belarus and would cost an estimated 152.460 million euros.

“We are now preparing technical specifications and will start the procurement process shortly. Of course, the biggest problem is money,” the deputy commander told BNS.

Depending on the funding, it may take between a year and three years to erect the fence.

Construction of the fence will start along the most vulnerable sections of the Lithuanian-Belarusian border, according to the official.

European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson also said earlier on Monday that a physical barrier at Lithuania's border with Belarus was necessary.

The Interior Ministry estimates that installing a physical barrier along with surveillance systems could cost about half a billion euros in total.

Money for return

Lithuanian border guards and migration officials will offer money to irregular migrants who agree to return home, in a bid to speed up their readmission, the country's top migration official said on Monday.

Recent amendments to the Law on the Legal Status of Aliens allow border guards and migration officials “to offer pocket money” to people who want to return to their country of origin, Evelina Gudzinskaitė, director of the Lithuanian Migration Department, told BNS.

A procedure for how this will work should be approved by the interior minister next week, she said.

The Lithuanian unit of the International Organization for Migration now offers to cover migrants' air travel expenses and reintegration support, according to the director.

The new rules will probably allow border guards and migration officials to offer only pocket money and cash to buy a plane ticket, she said.

Details as to how much money will be made available to migrants and whether they will be paid from EU or national funds are not yet clear.

Rejected applications

The Migration Department has so far rejected 187 asylum applications from the migrants and has not granted refugee status to any of them. Another 815 requests are pending.

More than a week ago, the department said it had rejected 140 applications and another 650 were pending.

According to Gudzinskaitė, not all irregular migrants have requested asylum in Lithuania.

“Some of them do not apply for asylum; some have just fled Lithuania,” she said. “Some of them may have applied, but either they are still under quarantine or border guards have not yet carried out their initial questioning.”

“We only count the asylum applications that we officially receive from the migrants themselves. It happens after they are questioned by border guards,” she added.

Nearly 4,000 irregular migrants have crossed into Lithuania from Belarus so far this year. Lithuania has accused the Belarusian government of facilitating migrant smuggling.

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