VILNIUS – Lithuanian border guards have tightened the existing push-back policy and are no longer sending illegal migrants found further from the border back to Belarus but are detaining them, Rustamas Liubajevas, commander of Lithuania's State Border Guard Service, says.
In his words, currently only migrants detained within the border area are being turned around. The area stretches 5 kilometers into the country from the border.
"Only those persons who were detained near the border are prevented from entering or turned away. (…) We have tightened the implementation of the operations commander's (the interior minister's – BNS) order," Liubajevas told the national broadcaster LRT on Thursday.
In his words, in all other cases migrants are detained and pre-trial investigations are launched. As an example, he reminded of last week's case when six illegal migrants were detained after arriving at Vilnius Railway Station from Varena.
Earlier, in August or September, migrants detained in Lithuania further from the border area were detained and turned away, the SBGS chief said.
Speaking of illegal migration flows, Liubajevas said there's been an increase in the border section guarded by officers from Varena Frontier District. Border guard forces have been stepped up in this area.
Almost 5,600 illegal migrants have been prevented from entering Lithuania since the country introduced the push-back policy in early August. And over 4,200 illegal migrants have entered Lithuania from Belarus since the start of this year.
Vilnius accuses the Minsk regime of orchestrating the unprecedented migration influx, calling it "hybrid aggression". An extreme situation is in place in Lithuania which is also building a physical barrier on its border with Belarus.