VILNIUS – A barbed wire barrier that Lithuania is erecting along its border with Belarus may make it more difficult for Belarusians fleeing the Minsk regime to take refuge in the neighboring country, Belarusian opposition activists living in Lithuania warned on Wednesday.
The fence will help the regime to crack down on "inconvenient" people, they said.
"People might think Europe doesn't want them. Now they still have a chance to save themselves," Nataliya Kolegova, head of the non-governmental organization Dapamoga, said at a news conference in Vilnius
She believes the barrier will help the regime "to detain and kill people".
In an effort to stem an influx of migrants, which Lithuania says is being orchestrated by the Alexander Lukashenko regime, the government has decided to build a fence along the border. A barbed wire is currently being erected, with a 550-kilometer wall to be built at a later stage.
Olga Zazulinskaya of the charity and support foundation Strana Dlya Zhizni described illegal migration as the Belarusian authoritarian leader's "main provocation" against Lithuania.
"He doesn't know how to fight the good Lithuanians who provide help to Belarusians," she said at the news conference. "He wants to build a wall with your hands; there's no money for that in Belarus."
"If Lithuania [...] builds the wall, you'll help Lukashenko in the first place," she added.
Andrey Sharenda of the European Belarus movement, who has fled Belarus and applied for asylum in Lithuania, said the influx of migrants is an organized process and a fence will only reduce the load for some border guards while increasing it for others.
The man recounted his personal experience of illegally crossing from Belarus into Lithuania.
On the Belarusian side, he found a camp in the border zone that is closed to anyone except border guards. Illegal migrants later crossed the border at the same place as he did, according to Sharenda.
The man said only a complete severance of economic ties could cripple the Lukashenko regime and stop the migration crisis it has triggered.
"Only this would make him respect human values; Belarus is turning into North Korea," he said.
More than 1,700 illegal migrants have been detained at Lithuania's border with Belarus this year so far, more than a 20-fold increase compared to the whole of 2020.
Most of the migrants originally come from the Middle East and Africa.
The Lithuanian government has declared a state-level emergency situation due to the growing influx of migration via Belarus.
Lithuanian officials say the migration influx is an organized hybrid attack by the Minsk regime.
In retaliation for EU sanctions, Minsk says it is no longer stopping migrants seeking to cross into the bloc.