Migrant camps in Lithuania to be zoned to prevent extortion, violence – officials

  • 2021-09-08
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Lithuania's authorities will divide irregular migrants' camps into zones in an effort to prevent cases of extortion and violence, Deputy Interior Minister Arnoldas Abramavicius said on Wednesday.

"It is the relocation and the zoning of these places that will probably solve these problems," he told members of the parliamentary Committee on Human Rights. "The structuring and zoning of the camps limits the occurrence of internal unrest and caste situations." 

The vice-minister added that this practice has been successfully applied abroad.

The 15min.lt news website reported last week, citing unnamed sources and information from the Red Cross, that a caste system was developing at a migrant tent camp in the Rudninkai military training area in Salcininkai District, 

Sexual exploitation, male prostitution and extortion are taking place at the camp which houses around 750 men, according to the article.

Abramavicius said, however, that the situation "is not that dramatic". 

Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson Birute Sabatauskaite called for religious, ethnic and cultural aspects to be taken into account in the zoning of accommodation for migrants. 

"We understand that some tensions may not decrease; they may increase," she said during the committee's meeting. 

Deputy Interior Minister Vitalij Dmitrijev said that the authorities will take irregular migrants' needs into account when moving them from Rudninkai to a former correctional facility in Kybartai. 

"At least people will live in more favorable conditions there; we will take their needs into account," he told the committee. "We see the problem in Rudninkai and we are reacting. Pre-trial investigations have been opened [...]; people have been separated."  

He called for NGOs' active involvement in the process to help identify the needs of migrants.

The main task now is to move people to facilities with better living conditions as soon as possible, according to the official. 

According to the State Border Guard Service, around 700 migrants are currently housed in border stations alone.

Over 4,100 migrants, mainly Iraqis, have crossed into Lithuania from Belarus illegally so far this year, compared to just 81 in all of 2020. According to the Migration Department, more than 100 irregular migrants have already been sent back to their countries of origin.

Lithuania has declared a state-level extreme situation over the unprecedented migration influx which it says is being orchestrated by the Belarusian regime.