VILNIUS – Lithuania's Interior Ministry has proposed separating asylum seekers and migrants under the new amendments to the Law on the Legal Status of Aliens it registered on Wednesday.
The ministry plans to submit the new amendments for the Cabinet's consideration next week.
"First of all, the amendments are aimed at separating asylum seekers from illegal migrants, i.e., foreigners who have not been granted asylum or have not asked for asylum. Decisions on illegal migrants are adopted by the State Border Guard Service and those on asylum seekers are made by the Migration Department," the ministry said in a statement.
Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite later told a press conference the proposed amendments were a compromise between "international commitments that have to do with human rights and our national security".
"Speaking of the government and prime minister's position, these bills were coordinated and agreement was reached. We need to harmonize human rights and international commitments," the minister said.
Under the existing Law on the Legal Status of Aliens, asylum seekers can be detained for up to six months during the time of war, extreme or emergency situation until their asylum request is processed.
Once the six-month term ends, Lithuanian institutions can turn to courts to ask for the extension of restrictions to a migrant's movement. The term of detention can be extended for up to 18 months.
The latest amendments are aimed at ensuring that decisions on migrants' further movement restriction periods are made individually once the six-month term ends.
In cases when a migrant is granted asylum and issued a residence permit, movement restriction are lifted, the ministry said.
If a migrant is not granted asylum, is in the process of appeal and poses no threat, movement restrictions would not apply in such cases as well. Such a restriction would also not apply in cases of illegal migrants with negative final asylum decisions, if they do not pose threat.
If there's a risk that a migrant might go into hiding or flee, such a migrant might be accommodated and have their movement freedom restricted for up to six month under a decision made by the Migration Department or the State Border Guard Service.
According to the ministry, in other cases when there's a legal basis for detention, for example, a person poses threat to national security or intentionally abuses the asylum procedure, the SBGS might turn to court to seek the illegal migrant's detention or alternative detention measures. A court could sanction migrants' detention for up to 18 months.
SWIFTER APPEAL PROCESSING PROCEDURE
The Interior Ministry also says its amendments are also proposing a swifter appeal processing procedure. Now in Lithuania migrants can only appeal against the Migration Department's decision not to grant asylum under a pre-trial procedure (appeals are lodged with the Migration Department's collegial body and later with the Regional Administrative Court), and appeals against return, expulsion and entry bans are considered by courts of two instances, including Regional Administrative Court and the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania.
"Under the proposal, in extreme situation cases, all aforementioned decisions would be appealed under a pre-trial procedure, meaning that all complaints would be looked into by the Migration Department or the SBGS' collegial bodies and the Regional Administrative Court," the ministry's statement reads.
The ministry believes that such changes would shorten procedures from 148 to 81 days and would see decision on foreigners' legal status made faster.