VILNIUS – Lithuania’s Interior Ministry has clarified on Tuesday that Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite meant legislative amendments related to a recent decision of the European Union’s (EU) Court of Justice (CJEU), when talking about consultations with the EU institutions.
The minister mentioned such consultations at a press conference where she was asked about a bill on turning irregular migrants away.
“We hereby inform that while making comments about consultations with the European Commission, the minister meant consultations on amendments to national legislation that might be necessary to implement the decision of the EU Court of Justice. Those are amendments to the Law on the Legal Status of Aliens,” the ministry said in comments sent to BNS on Tuesday.
Bilotaite was asked during a press conference earlier on Tuesday whether Lithuania was consulting with EU institutions on adopting legislation on turning irregular migrant away, the practice that was currently implemented under the minister’s order.
"We are consulting with the European Commission, … we are consulting on some changes and other things, and the first thing we are seeking is to have the changes in European law, in the migration policy, that Lithuania is proposing," she said.
Last Friday, the Interior Ministry confirmed it was drafting a bill to legalize the turning-back of irregular migrants at the border. Bilotaite says the legislation would allow border guards to use such measures during an extreme and emergency situation and during a state of war.
Lithuania introduced the measures last year in response to an influx of migrants trying to cross into its territory from Belarus, accusing the Minsk regime of having orchestrated the influx.
In total, more than 11,000 irregular migrants have been refused entry to Lithuanian from Belarus since August 3, 2021, when the interior minister ordered border guards to turn irregular migrants back.
Some critics say such actions can be considered pushbacks that violate international law. Border guards say, however, they are not pushing migrants back but preventing them from entering Lithuania's territory instead.
The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled in late June that Lithuania's legal provisions, which allow an applicant for international protection to be denied the right to asylum and placed in automatic detention solely on the grounds that they have irregularly crossed the border, are not compatible with EU legislation.
The court stressed that the EU directive on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection precludes the application of national legal provisions where these imply that, even if the said legal regimes are put in place, third-country citizens staying illegally in a Member State “are actually deprived of access to a procedure in which an application for international protection is examined in the territory of that Member State”.
In addition, the court pointed out that, in order to justify detention, the Member State where an asylum seeker is seeking international protection “must, in principle, prove that in his particular circumstances he poses a threat to national security or public order”.
In view of this interpretation, Lithuania's Supreme Administrative Court last week ruled in favor of a foreigner in his detention case, recognizing his status as an asylum seeker.