EU must be ready for even greater migrant influx – Lithuanian president

  • 2021-10-22
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – The EU's migration and asylum rules need to be revised as the bloc has to be prepared for an even greater influx of irregular migrants coming across its external border with Belarus, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said on Friday.

His comment came as EU leaders are starting discussions on Lithuania's proposed changes to the bloc's migration policy on Friday. 

"We see the hybrid attack of Belarus' regime, which [...] is becoming more and more aggressive; we see visa facilitation efforts; we see attempts by Belarus' regime to find new connections, new destinations from Middle East countries," Nauseda told reporters in Brussels. "So the number of potential migrants who could cross the border of EU is increasing." 

"Under the current circumstances, [...] we have to amend our legislation, our Schengen Code, in order to be ready to take these challenges organized by the Belarussian regime," he said. 

The Lithuanian president noted that Belarus is also carrying out a disinformation campaign, blaming the EU for its policies, questioning the bloc's ability to deal with the migrant crisis and "trying to escalate the human rights situation".

"This is the reason why we have to be decisive: we need decisions, actions, and we should do this as soon as possible," he said.

Lithuania is seeking an update and review of the migration and asylum rules, as well as measures to allow the EU to finance the construction of a physical barrier on the border with Belarus, according to Nauseda.

"This is necessary as a short-term measure to fight the crisis. Because nobody knows what may happen tomorrow: maybe three, four, five thousand migrants will show up at the border at the same time, or they will try to cross the border in different places, and we will not be ready for this challenge. So we need to be decisive once again," he said.

Almost 4,200 irregular migrants have crossed into Lithuania from Belarus illegally so far this year. Both Brussels and Vilnius accuse the Minsk regime of orchestrating the unprecedented migration influx, calling it "hybrid aggression".