Johansson in Vilnius: migrant pushbacks have no place in EU's legal system

  • 2022-01-21
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Migrant pushbacks have no place in the European Union's legal system, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said in Vilnius on Friday.  

"Pushbacks are clearly illegal. People have the right to apply for asylum," she said ahead of The Conference on Border Management underway in the Lithuanian capital. 

For this reason, the European Commission has drawn up legislative proposals to define "what derogations are possible [...] and what kind of derogations are not possible" for countries facing instrumentalized migration.

Since August, Lithuanian border guards have been turning away foreign nationals caught attempting to cross the border at non-designated places. 

Vilnius says it adopted the policy of denying entry to irregular migrants because of the Minsk regime's actions. Lithuanian officials note, among other things, that migrants can apply for asylum at border crossings or at Vilnius' embassy in Minsk. 

Human rights activists say, however, that the current system is inefficient, because some migrants are apparently unable to apply for asylum at Lithuania's border crossing points because they have no identity documents, which they need to be allowed by Belarusian border guards to cross the border. 

Johansson also said that the EU's position not to fund border fences remains unchanged. 

"If member states like to build fences, they can do so, but it is a long-standing position of the Commission not to finance walls or barbed wire fences," she said.  

The commissioner said illegal migration crises have to be tackled by reducing the flow of foreigners from third countries.

"Lukashenko has failed. In my view, this is the way to continue," she said. 

More than 4,200 irregular crossed into Lithuania from Belarus illegally last year. Lithuania and other Western countries accuse the Minsk regime of orchestrating the unprecedented migration influx, calling it "hybrid aggression".