News2023.05.05 10:50

Lithuania’s migrant pushback law must be implemented in full – Seimas speaker

Paulius Perminas, BNS 2023.05.05 10:50

The recently adopted law on turning away irregular migrants “must be implemented in its entirety”, Seimas Speaker Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen said on Friday.

She was commenting on the cabinet’s decision to scrap a parliament-approved exemption to the law.

“A large number of MPs voted in favour of the law because it struck a balance between national security and human rights,” Čmilytė-Nielsen told LRT RADIO.

“I understand that if the Interior Ministry finds some of the clauses in the law disproportionate, the government can table proposals and amend the law. But at the current stage, the law must be implemented in its entirety,” she added.

The law allows the government, on the proposal of the National Security Commission, to deny entry to foreign nationals “who intend to or have crossed the state border at not-designated places or at places designated for the purpose but in violation of the border crossing procedure”.

The law came into force on Wednesday after the cabinet adopted the respective resolution.

To balance national security interests and human rights, the law also provides that the pushback policy does not apply “if it is established that the foreigner is fleeing armed conflicts as defined in the government’s resolution, is fleeing persecution as defined in the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, or is seeking to enter the Lithuanian territory on humanitarian grounds”.

However, the Interior Ministry, which drafted the government’s resolution, said that there was “no objective ground” to draw up a list of armed conflicts as that would create “an attraction factor” for instrumentalised migration.

“I don't think this is going to happen. The law has been passed and the government will have to enforce it or initiate amendments that will be debated by the parliament. From my point of view, the situation is quite clear,” Čmilytė-Nielsen said.

While it is not uncommon for the legislative and executive branches to differ on certain issues, “in this case, the law has already been adopted”, the Seimas speaker noted.

The cabinet’s decision has come under fire from NGOs and members of the Seimas Committee on Human Rights, saying that efforts to strike a balance between human rights and national security were only “smoke and mirrors”.

Lithuania has been turning away irregular migrants trying to enter the country from Belarus for almost two years now.

In early April, Vilnius launched an international case against Belarus over orchestrating migration.

LRT has been certified according to the Journalism Trust Initiative Programme

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