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2021.10.14 15:00

Brussels calls meeting with Baltic, Polish envoys over ‘children stuck in forests’

updated
LRT.lt2021.10.14 15:00

The European Commission has called a meeting with the ambassadors of Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania to discuss reports of children “stuck in forests” on the border with Belarus.

“I’m very concerned about reports of people including children stuck in forests in dire situation at external EU borders with Belarus,” European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson tweeted on Thursday.

The meeting planned for Thursday was later rescheduled, according to LRT.lt sources in Brussels.

The European Commission later told LRT.lt that it could not “confirm the details of the meeting”.

This marks a departure form the earlier rhetoric from Brussels.

According to Lithuanian Interior Minister Agnė Bilotaitė, Johansson mentioned the country as an example on how to deal with the migration crisis, which is being fostered by the Belarusian regime in response to EU sanctions.

“I received clear confirmation and support that Lithuania is an example on how to align the country’s national security interests and protecting the EU border, with European values,” Bilotaitė said.

On Wednesday, head of EU border guard agency Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, said the number of potential human rights violations was growing. In response, Lithuania’s authorities said the agency had no plans to suspend its operation, as it had done previously in Hungary due to human rights abuses.

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

Other member states invited

Lithuania's acting Ambassador to the EU Simonas Šatūnas said he proposed to the European Commission to invite "Slovenia, which is holding the EU presidency, and other EU states" to the meeting.

"The situation on the EU–Belarusian border is a matter of the entire EU,” he said in a statement. "Helping stranded migrants and providing them with proper conditions should concern the whole of the EU and not only those member states that are facing pressure from [Belarus' Alexander] Lukashenko."

According to him, Lithuania has been working closely with the European Commission since the very start of the crisis.

"The EC's position remains unchanged; what is happening on the EU–Belarusian border is organised human trafficking and part of hybrid warfare. Commissioner Johansson has repeated that herself numerous times," Šatūnas said.

Lithuania, the EC, and EU member states will continue looking for ways to resolve the situation on the border and to "protect children and all people from illegal smuggling", he added.

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