Lithuanian border guards see need for state of emergency despite drop in migrant flows

  • 2023-02-27
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Although irregular migrant flows have ebbed recently, the Lithuanian State Border Guard Service (SBGS) believes that the existing state of emergency in border areas should be extended, saying that the threats to national security have not yet disappeared.

Border guards have recorded no attempts to cross into the country from Belarus illegally for the past nine days, but they say that "the calm is temporary".

"There would be a need (to extend the state of emergency) because the calm is temporary, as the current situation of our neighbors shows," SBGS spokesman Giedrius Misutis told BNS on Monday. "We have zero (crossings), and they have 110 (at Poland's border)." 

The state of emergency at Lithuania's borders with Belarus and Russia are now set to expire in mid-March.

The Interior Ministry did not respond to BNS' question about the need to extend the state of emergency.

The ministry agrees with the SBGS that the threat to Lithuania's national security has not diminished, due to unrecorded illegal migration flows.

"The level of threat to national security on Lithuania's border with Belarus has not decreased as the Belarusian regime's hybrid attack by instrumentalizing migrants is not yet over," it told BNS in a comment. 

"The Belarusian regime is difficult to predict, so there is still a risk of various types of provocations in the future." 

The Interior Ministry said the situation on the border with Belarus remains tense, adding that it does not rule out that a new migrant smuggling route through Russia's Kaliningrad exclave might emerge.

Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte has said recently that the government is likely to ask the parliament to extend the state of emergency in border areas until the current policy of turning irregular migrants away has been formalized in law. 

The Interior Ministry plans to table a bill, which would allow border guards to turn away migrants not only under a state of emergency but also under the so-called extreme situation regime, to the parliament during the upcoming spring session.  

Almost 4,200 irregular migrants crossed into Lithuania from Belarus illegally in 2021. However, the vast majority of them fled Lithuania after they were allowed to move freely.