The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued an interim measure, preventing Lithuania from pushing back five Afghan nationals who say they are hiding in the country.
“The ECHR has today [September 8] decided to indicate an interim measure in the case Sadeed and Others v. Lithuania [...] concerning five Afghan nationals who have been attempting to enter Lithuania from Belarus and now assert that they are in hiding in Lithuania,” the Strasbourg court said in a press release on Wednesday.
“The measure will apply until 29 September 2021 inclusive,” it said.
The applicants say they arrived in Belarus in August and have since been repeatedly attempting to enter Lithuania to seek international protection.
“They allege that they fled Afghanistan because, as westernized and educated Afghan nationals, they are particularly vulnerable to Taliban reprisals,” the court said.
“However, on several occasions they were unable to enter Lithuania nor to return to Belarus (which is not a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights). They were thus stranded at the border. They have apparently been in hiding on Lithuanian territory since 5 September.”
The applicants asked the Strasbourg court to halt their removal to Belarus.
The court “decided to apply Rule 39 until 29 September 2021, indicating to the Government of Lithuania that the applicants should not be removed to Belarus, provided that they are already on Lithuanian territory”.
No evidence of presence in Lithuania
Meanwhile, the head of Lithuania's State Border Guard Service (VSAT) stated on Thursday that the Afghan nationals might not be in Lithuania.
“We do not have any objective evidence that the said Afghan nationals are currently in the territory of the Republic of Lithuania,” Rustamas Liubajevas told reporters.
However, border guards have been instructed to look out for the migrants.
“If there are cases when irregular migrants declare that they are Afghan nationals, [officers] will attempt to establish their identity. [...] If it is established that they are the irregular migrants [named in the ECHR verdict], they will not be returned to the Republic of Belarus,” Liubajevas said.