VILNIUS – Lithuania’s Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite sees attempts to open a new path of irregular migration “by manipulating events in Afghanistan”.
“We see an obvious attempt to open a new path of irregular migration by manipulating events in Afghanistan. The same rule applies to all individuals trying to cross the border illegally – asylum applications shall be submitted at a border checkpoint,” a press release from the Ministry of the Interior quoted the minister as saying.
Lithuania was ready to help Afghan nationals if they arrived legally, she stressed.
“However, we will not let anyone abuse our asylum system and turn Lithuania into a public thoroughfare of irregular migration,” Bilotaite added.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Wednesday decided to indicate an interim measure in the case Sadeed and Others vs Lithuania concerning five Afghan nationals who had been attempting to enter Lithuania from Belarus and now asserted that they were in hiding in Lithuania.
The Court indicated to the Lithuanian government that the applicants should not be removed to Belarus, provided that they were already on Lithuanian territory. It also said that the measure would apply until 29 September 2021 inclusive.
According to the Court’s press release, the applicants are citizens of Afghanistan. They arrived in Belarus in August 2021. The migrants alleged that they had fled Afghanistan because, as westernized and educated Afghan nationals, they were particularly vulnerable to Taliban reprisals.
The ECHR was told that the migrants had been unable to enter Lithuania nor to return to Belarus on several occasions and had been thus stranded at the border for some time. Since September 5, they had apparently been in hiding on Lithuanian territory, the Court said in the press release.
However, the Lithuanian State Border Guard Service (SBGS) reported that the migrants from Afghanistan who were mentioned in the Court’s decision on Thursday showed up on the Belarusian side near Lithuania’s border but were not allowed to cross into Lithuania.
The migrants’ lawyer had also arrived at the border and tried to convince border guards that those persons had to be allowed to enter Lithuania pursuant to the decision issued by the ECHR, Rustamas Liubajevas, the commander of the Lithuanian State Border Guard Service (SBGS), stated.
He stressed that Lithuania had not been obliged to let the migrants in as it had only been obliged not to remove the migrants to Belarus provided that they were already on Lithuanian territory. Therefore, the migrants had not been allowed to cross into Lithuania, the SBGS commander said.