2021.09.15 10:56

Five Afghan migrants request asylum in Lithuania

BNS2021.09.15 10:56

The five Afghan nationals who were detained near the Belarusian border in Lithuania on Tuesday will be able to ask for asylum in Lithuania, the commander of Lithuania's State Border Guard Service (VSAT) said on Wednesday. The VSAT later confirmed that they applied for asylum

“First of all, they will be given the chance to ask for asylum in Lithuania's territory. What their decision will be, we don’t know. If they do decide to ask for it, asylum consideration procedures will be launched,” Rustamas Liubajevas, the VSAT chief told journalists earlier on Wednesday.

Read more: Despite European court ruling, five Afghans remain stuck on border with Lithuania

According to him, the border guards who detained the migrants carried out additional checks and identified the place where they crossed the border. The Afghans entered Lithuania from Belarus before their detention, according to Liubajevas.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) introduced interim measures last week and banned Lithuanian border guards from sending the five Afghans back to Belarus.

The State Border Guard Service confirmed on Tuesday night that the five Afghans had been detained in Lithuania's territory earlier that night some 250 meters from Lithuania's border with Belarus.

Read more: European court tells Lithuania not to push back 5 Afghan migrants stranded on Belarus border

The migrants were earlier detained in Lithuania's territory after the ECHR ruling, but were then turned around and returned to Belarus.

“All illegal migrants who are detained near the state border are detained in Lithuania's territory. Unfortunately, Mr. Lukashenko has yet not given VSAT officers powers to detain illegal migrants on the Belarusian side. Physically, all illegal migrants who make an attempt to illegally enter Lithuania are detained near the state border in Lithuania's territory,” Liubajevas said.

But, he noted, under a decree from the Interior Ministry, border guards can then send them back to Belarus.

“Last week, those illegal migrants were also detained near the state border and were in Lithuania's territory. We have never said that they were not allowed into Lithuania's territory. They were in Lithuania and they were in fact returned since the decision was made and they made an illegal attempt to enter Lithuania and they were returned,” Liubajevas said.

Last week, however, he said the VSAT had “no objective data that the aforementioned citizens of Afghanistan are currently in the territory of the Republic of Lithuania”.

On Tuesday, Liubajevas said the migrants were allowed to enter Lithuania this time, in line with the ECHR ruling and the fact that there were “a lot of unclear things we really need to look into”.

Documents on the phone

The five Afghan migrants are now at Puškos Frontier Districts where they were given necessary assistance and food, Liubajevas said.

According to Liubajevas, after detaining the migrants, border guards carried out additional checks and identified the place where they crossed the border.

Just as last week, they had no documents on them and only showed copies of their documents in their phones, he said.

Liubajevas called the situation “a spectacle” directed by the Belarusian government.

“Unfortunately, some Lithuanian citizens are also playing a fairly important role in this spectacle,” he said.

Over 4,000 migrants have crossed into Lithuania from Belarus so far this year. Vilnius has accused the Minsk regime of orchestrating the unprecedented migration influx, calling it “hybrid aggression”.

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