Lithuania's government will not seek a rule change allowing to keep irregular migrants in indefinite detention, according to Prime Minster Ingrida Šimonytė.
Under the current law, migrants can be kept in camps for up to six months, but the Interior Ministry suggested this week to scrap the limit.
“The government has not considered that proposal yet, and I don’t think the government will put such a proposal before the parliament,” Šimonytė told reporters on Thursday.
On Wednesday, Interior Vice Minister Arnoldas Abramavičius said during a sitting of the parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defence that his ministry was drafting amendments to the Law on the Legal Status of Aliens.
During an extraordinary parliament session in July, the Interior Ministry already made such a proposal, but the parliament then set a period of six months, fearing that indefinite detention might violate human rights.
“Problems have to be resolved other ways than by just extending the period, because that extension might be justified in some cases, but one might turn to court for separate cases,” the prime minister said.
Now, the Law on the Legal Status of Aliens states that, in times of war, emergency or extreme situations, asylum seekers might be detained for up to six months while their applications are processed.
Abramavičius pointed out that once the six-month period ends, authorities will have to go to courts to rule on the restriction of movement for every individual migrant. Courts could set detention periods of up to 18 months.
“I believe the task is to resolve issues related to the status of those people who came to Lithuania during this influx as soon as possible and consider their asylum requests as quickly as possible. It might happen that we cannot do everything in time for those procedures, appeals to happen in due time for some reason, but that's why legal provisions are for and they might be applied,” Šimonytė said.
“Whether some legal amendments might be needed, I cannot rule that out, but that automatic extension of time does not seem to me as the wisest solution in this situation,” the Lithuanian prime minister said.
Lithuanian politicians and institutions are now considering what to do with migrants whose asylum requests are rejected. It could be impossible to deport some of them, because their countries of origin, for example Iraq, have refused to carry out mandatory return of their citizens.
Over 4,000 migrants, many from Iraq, have crossed into Lithuania from Belarus over the past several months. Vilnius has accused the Minsk regime of orchestrating the unprecedented migration influx, calling it “hybrid aggression”.
Around 2,140 migrants have asked for asylum in Lithuania, according to the Interior Ministry. Around one-fourth, 562 requests, have already been considered and rejected.
Some 140 foreigners have voluntarily left Lithuania or have been sent out.