VILNIUS – There would be no discussion on the legality of Lithuanian border guards' actions at the border with Belarus if the EU's migration policy were updated to reflect the new reality, Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite said on Wednesday.
"The problem [...] is that EU law, the migration policy does not correspond to today's reality where this kind of attack is being carried out against Lithuania and against the EU as a whole, where human beings are being used as a weapon," the minister told reporters.
"Our legal regulation today, European legal regulation, does not allow us to take these measures and use these tools to protect ourselves and to protect the EU", she said.
Vilnius is calling for a review of the EU's migration policy to provide member states with more tools to respond to hybrid threats, such as that currently faced by Lithuania.
"We will continue to work to ensure that these changes are adopted and that there are no more such discussions, no more doubts about whether it is legal or not," Bilotaite said.
Almost 4,200 migrants have crossed into Lithuania from Belarus illegally so far this year. Vilnius accuses the Minsk regime of orchestrating the unprecedented migration influx, calling it "hybrid aggression"
In a bid to stem the flow, Lithuania in early August introduced a policy of pushing migrants back over the border into Belarus.
Her comments came in response to a report by the EUobserver website where it cited Frontex Director Fabrice Leggeri as saying that "there are, if I remember correctly now 17, almost 20 let's say, serious incident reports with a suspicion of the violation of fundamental rights in Lithuania".
"My understanding is that the reason for that is the interpretation of Lithuanian law. The question is whether Lithuanian law on border management and asylum is compatible with EU legislation," he said.
Bilotaite said she thanked all EU agencies, including Frontex, for their help in managing the migrant crisis. The minister added that, as far as she knew, Frontex's mission was already "coming to an end".
According to the Interior Ministry, the mission is scheduled to run until November 25, but it is not known if it will be extended.