News2023.04.28 15:34

People in Vilnius protest against Lithuania’s migrant pushback law

BNS 2023.04.28 15:34

Around 50 people held a picket outside the Presidential Palace on Friday to protest against Lithuania’s migrant pushback law.

"[The law is] a very serious crime against human rights and it is a pity that no one from the ruling party, except for the eight politicians who voted against it, reacted to the international community's concerns," Emilija Švabaitė, one of the 28 volunteers from the organisation Border Group (Sienos Grupė), which organised the rally, told BNS.

On Tuesday, the Seimas legalised migrant pushbacks if there is a state of emergency declared in the country.

The protest in front of the Presidential Palace was organised several days ago, asking Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda to veto the law changes. However, the head of state signed the amendments into law on Wednesday.

Although the president’s office usually announces decisions on bills that are subject to a broader debate, it only published its decision after queries from journalists.

During the picket, participants chanted "shame on Nausėda" and "stop border violence".

"I am well aware that nothing will change. Everything seemed to be agreed in advance, that the function of separation of powers didn't even seem to work. The president seems to have put his signature on a blank page," Tomas Marcinkevičius, a 36-year-old Lithuanian language teacher, told BNS.

Presidential adviser Kęstutis Budrys, who passed by before the rally, did not stop to talk to the protesters.

In a comment to BNS, the president’s office said the law amendments ensure both the country's ability to protect its borders and respect for human rights.

The amendments to the law have been criticised by human rights organisations, which argue that it would legalise the expulsion of migrants in contravention of international law, adding that it would “green-light torture”.

"I would argue that what separates us from Belarus [...] is our solidarity with the international community and that we should be aware that Lithuania is a member of the Council of Europe and Belarus is not,” said Švabaitė. “The Council of Europe criticises these amendments to the law. Perhaps this law is one step closer to authoritarian regimes."

Since allowing pushbacks on August 3, 2021, amid Minsk regime-orchestrated migrant influx, Lithuanian border guards recorded 20,100 attempts to cross the border irregularly from Belarus.

LRT has been certified according to the Journalism Trust Initiative Programme

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