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2021.10.13 13:19

Frontex ‘sees no need’ to terminate operation in Lithuania, says border guard chief

BNS2021.10.13 13:19

Lithuania is providing explanations to the EU border agency Frontex over the alleged human rights abuses, but the country itself has not recorded any legal violations, Rustamas Liubajevas, commander of the country's State Border Guard Service (VSAT), said on Wednesday.

"An investigation and discussion is taking place with the state, Lithuania, in this case, and we have to provide answers. We have provided responses to more than a half of those reports or inquiries, and now the Frontex agency is looking into those assessments," Liubajevas told BNS.

There have been no cases when Lithuania, when providing its response, concluded that the violation had in fact taken place. "We have not recorded such cases," he said.

His comments came in response to a report by the EUobserver news website when it cited Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri as saying that "there are, if I remember correctly now 17, almost 20 let's say, serious incident reports with a suspicion of the violation of fundamental rights in Lithuania".

Read more: EU border chief: More ‘violations’ in Lithuania than reported

Liubajevas said he was of around 16 cases, while one more report was received on Tuesday. In one instance, the case was "closed" as no violation had been determined.

Liubajevas added he has met with Leggeri and spoken about the incidents, which are still being investigated.

"Today, we met with the director and spoke briefly, and I asked what the situation with those reports was. He also said he had no special results but saw no need to terminate the operation yet," the VSAT chief said.

Liubajevas pointed out that Frontex does not investigate violations but just looks whether they could have happened, and based on that, the agency's head decides on whether to continue the Frontex operation.

"The majority of those reports were made in August. Despite those reports, the director made the decision to continue the operation [which] was extended on October 6 until November 30," Liubajevas said.

"Quite a number of" reports are made during ongoing operations not only in Lithuania but also in other countries, he said, adding that they do not necessarily involve human rights violations.

Lithuania provides explanations of existing national legislation, Liubajevas said.

"First of all, we provided explanations, information about our existing legislative base and what decisions have been made. Our key principle for our cooperation with Frontex and the European Union is really openness, and we really do not plan to hide anything," the VSAT chief said.

Vilnius says it introduced migrant pushback policy in response to Belarus' hybrid attack on Lithuania and the European Union.

Almost 4,200 irregular migrants, mainly Iraqis, have entered Lithuania from Belarus so far this year.

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