Lithuania rejects Belarusian activist Karach's asylum request

  • 2023-08-18
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Lithuania's Migration Department has refused to grant asylum to Olga Karach, a Belarusian activist who has been living in Lithuania for the past nine years and leads Our House, an international center for civic initiatives.

Speaking with BNS on Friday, Karach confirmed that she had been denied asylum on the grounds that she posed a threat to national security.

"Today, at 8 a.m., I received the decision (on the denial of asylum - BNS)," Karach said, adding that she plans to appeal.

Karach has been receiving residence permits in Lithuania since 2014 and says she lived between Lithuania and Belarus until the spring of 2020 and then she moved to Vilnius. She applied for asylum in 2022.

Karach says the State Security Department cited her past trips to conferences in Russia as to why she was deemed a threat to national security. She claims, however, that these events, initiated by the European Commission and other EU institutions, took place before the international community's relations with Moscow soured.

Lithuania's intelligence also reported about her interview with Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Karach said. The conversation, which was broadcast on social media, took place in 2021 and focused on the Lukashenko and Russian-Belarusian relations.

Karach called claims of her alleged threat to Lithuania's security "unequivocal delusions".

"I have never threatened Lithuania and I have no intention to do so, even now, despite the fact that I have to hear accusations of this kind," the Belarusian said.

She plans to appeal, and if she loses in Lithuania, the woman plans to turn to the European Court of Human Rights.

Karach says she applied for asylum because she wanted additional protection.

"I am recognized as a terrorist by the Belarusian KGB. (...) I need additional protection because with my residence permit, if I go to any country and Lukashenko contacts Interpol regarding me, I can simply be detained there," the head of Our House said. "Clearly, I would be released at some point but it's simply dangerous to travel with such several-month detentions."

The Migration Department has refused to comment on its decision in Karach's case.

"The Migration Department does not comment on specific asylum cases, data, decisions and individual situations," Rokas Pukinskas, a spokesman for the department, told BNS.

Our House says it provides humanitarian, psychological and other assistance to Belarusians both in their homeland and in Lithuania, and also monitors human rights violations.