Lithuanian defense minister sees no need for state of emergency over migrant crisis

  • 2021-07-27
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said on Tuesday that he sees no grounds for declaring a state of emergency in the country, adding that the special legal status would not significantly help manage irregular migration challenges. 

A state of emergency "can be considered as unavoidable if such conditions exist", but this can be avoided if officials reach an agreement with local residents resisting plans to house migrants in certain areas, according to the minister.

"I would not like to speculate on this subject in general, because the prerequisites for a state of emergency do not exist yet, and if they did, it would be a different matter, a completely different discussion," Anusauskas told BNS. 

There must be "a threat to the constitutional order" to warrant a state of emergency, according to the minister. 

Recent legislative amendments have given significant powers to the authorities and the Armed Forces under the emergency situation regime, which is currently in place in the country, Anusauskas noted, adding that the military are already "providing significant support" to police and other bodies under the Interior Ministry. 

"Little changes if a state of emergency is introduced. I don’t know where these illusions came from," he said.

Declaring of a state of emergency would allow the authorities to restrict "citizens' rights and opportunities" in specific areas, according to the minister.  

"Is that what we want? I think a consensus can be found so that the government can still carry out its functions and localize these risks. I don't think there is any need for a state of emergency in any form, because it would not help to manage the situation in any other way, " he said.

Anusauskas said the chief of defense and he had agreed that "if necessary, the Armed Forces will contribute to the protection, patrol and blocking of [migrant] camps" to dispel the public's fears and make people feel safe. 

The key tasks now are to move irregular migrants from the frontier posts to vacate these premises for new arrivals, and to strengthen border security, according to Anusauskas.

Another other things, a state of emergency would exacerbate the situation in the context of Zapad 2021, a joint Belarusian-Russian military exercise due to be held near the Lithuanian border in September, the minister noted.

Laurynas Kasciunas, chairman of the parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defense, and Saulius Skvernelis, the parliamentary opposition leader, said earlier on Tuesday that a state of emergency could be declared due to the growing migration crisis. 

Under the law, a state of emergency is a special legal regime that allows temporarily restricting individuals' rights and freedoms, including declaring martial law. 

A state of emergency can be introduced nationwide or in individual parts of the country.