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2021.09.09 09:56

Lithuanian authorities pledge to tackle violence in migrant camps

BNS2021.09.09 09:56

To prevent extortion and violence that have been reported in Lithuania's migrant camps, the authorities plan to divide them into zones and separate different groups.

“It is the relocation and the zoning of these places that will probably solve these problems,” Deputy Interior Minister Arnoldas Abramavičius told members of the parliamentary Committee on Human Rights on Wednesday.

“The structuring and zoning of the camps limits the occurrence of internal unrest and caste situations.”

The vice-minister added that this practice has been successfully applied abroad.

The 15min.lt news website reported last week, citing unnamed sources and information from the Red Cross, that a caste system was developing at a migrant tent camp in the Rūdninkai military training area in Šalčininkai District.

Sexual exploitation, male prostitution and extortion are taking place at the camp which houses around 750 men, according to the article.

Abramavičius said, however, that the situation “is not that dramatic”.

Read more: Male prostitution and extortion taking place inside Lithuanian migrant camp – media

Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson Birutė Sabatauskaitė said that authorities should take into account religious, ethnic and cultural aspects when zoning migrant camps.

“We understand that some tensions may not decrease; they may increase,” she said during the committee's meeting.

Deputy Interior Minister Vitalij Dmitrijev said that the authorities will take migrants' needs into account when moving them from Rūdninkai to a former correctional facility in Kybartai.

“At least people will live in more favourable conditions there; we will take their needs into account,” he told the committee. “We see the problem in Rūdninkai and we are responding. Pre-trial investigations have been opened [...], people have been separated.”

He invited non-governmental rights organisations to get actively involve and help identify migrants' needs.

The main task now is to move people to facilities with better living conditions as soon as possible, according to the official.

According to the State Border Guard Service, around 700 migrants are currently housed in border stations alone.

Read more: What not ‘five-star’ conditions look like in Lithuanian migrant camps

Social assistance groups

Five mobile social assistance teams will start working at migrant camps in Lithuania by October, the Social Security and Labour Ministry said on Wednesday.

Social assistance for vulnerable groups, such as pregnant women, children, unaccompanied minors, and the disabled, is already being organised at migrant accommodation sites which currently number over 30, the ministry said in a press release.

“Mobile specialists are working with the most vulnerable migrants at the Vydeniai school in Varėna District today,” Social Security Minister Monika Navickienė is quoted in the statement. “They will travel to the village of Lipliūnai, in Druskininkai Municipality, tomorrow and to the Border Guard School in Vilnius District on Friday.”

The ministry plans to have five mobile teams, 16 specialists in total, by October. They will regularly visit all migrant accommodation sites.

The workers will have to identify migrant's needs and assess their emotional state, and refer them to doctors and psychologists if needed.

Over 4,100 migrants, many of them from Iraq, have crossed into Lithuania from Belarus so far this year, an unprecedented hike from previous years. According to the Migration Department, more than 100 irregular migrants have already been sent back to their countries of origin.

Lithuania has declared a state-level extreme situation over the unprecedented migration influx which it says is being orchestrated by the Belarusian government.

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