2021.09.09 16:20

Lithuania turns away Afghan migrants mentioned in European court ruling

Austėja Masiokaitė-Liubinienė, BNS2021.09.09 16:20

Afghan migrants who were mentioned in a recent decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) have showed up near Lithuania's border on Thursday, but were not allowed to cross from Belarus, the commander of the Lithuanian State Border Guard Service (VSAT), said on Thursday.

“Just as expected, they showed up and came from the Belarusian side, approached the border in order to enter Lithuania illegally,” Rustamas Liubajevas told BNS on Thursday.

The migrants’ lawyer also arrived at the border and tried to convince border guards that they should allow the Afghan nationals to enter Lithuania, Liubajevas said.

He stressed, however, that Lithuania was not obliged to let the migrants in by the ECHR ruling, which, according to him, was only an injunction against pushing them out.

“Since those irregular migrants have arrived illegally [today], from the territory of Belarus, they have not been found or detained in the territory of Lithuania, they have not been let into the territory of Lithuania,” he stated.

“We are aware that the court does not oblige Lithuania to let those particular irregular migrants in. The court stated very clearly that Lithuania should not remove those migrants if they were detained or found on Lithuanian territory,” Liubajevas said.

According to the data from the VSAT, the Afghan nationals had no identity documents – only their copies stored on their phones – upon arrival at the border.

The migrants were informed how they should apply for asylum, the VSAT commander said.

According to the VSAT, the migrants were detained in the district of Ignalina on Thursday afternoon right after crossing the border from Belarus into Lithuania.

“They just came from the Belarusian side, crossed the border line and were detained by our officers,” Liubajevas said adding that the migrants were currently “staying in the territory of Belarus”.

He also said that, to his knowledge, the migrants moved further into the territory of Belarus.

The ECHR on Wednesday decided to indicate an interim measure in the case Sadeed and Others vs Lithuania concerning five Afghan nationals who had been attempting to enter Lithuania from Belarus and now asserted that they were in hiding in Lithuania.

The Court indicated to the Lithuanian government that the applicants should not be removed to Belarus, provided that they were already on Lithuanian territory. It also said that the measure would apply until 29 September 2021 inclusive.

However, Karolina Bubnytė-Sirmene, the Lithuanian government's representative at the ECHR, said that the Court’s decision did not oblige Lithuania to let the individuals in.

According to the Court’s press release, the applicants are citizens of Afghanistan. They arrived in Belarus in August 2021. The migrants alleged that they had fled Afghanistan because, as westernized and educated Afghan nationals, they were particularly vulnerable to Taliban reprisals.

The ECHR was told that the migrants had been unable to enter Lithuania nor to return to Belarus on several occasions and had been stranded at the border for some time. Since September 5, they had apparently been in hiding on Lithuanian territory, the Court said in the press release.

“The Court was likely misled” as the information about the whereabouts of the migrants mentioned in the Court’s decision had proved wrong, Liubajevas said.

“Whether they attempted to cross [into Lithuania] or not, it is also difficult to say,” he added.

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