Migration should be given more priority to EU level – Lithuanian foreign minister

  • 2021-10-18
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Although migrant flows at the European Union's border with Belarus are under control, the crisis is not yet over and the bloc needs to give more priority to this matter, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said on Monday. 

"Even though the situation seems under control, the flows are not diminishing," Lithuania's top diplomat said ahead of the EU Foreign Affairs Council's meeting in Luxembourg. "There are a number of new flights that are being opened up. We need to find the solution how to stop it in Belarus."

"I think that we lack understanding of the priority of this issue," he added.

Migrants are coming to Belarus from Africa and the Middle East. The bloc has succeeded in achieving results in its negotiations with Iraq on flight restrictions and similar solutions are needed in talks with other countries, too, according to Landsbergis.

"We often get distracted" by new challenges, he said, adding that the EU needs to priorities its security issues properly.

Politico reported on Monday that EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg would discuss new sanctions on Belarus and its national airline Belavia to ban it from leasing planes from EU-registered companies.

Ireland remains "the EU’s hub for aircraft leasing" and some Irish firms continue to lease planes to Belavia, according to the article. 

Landsbergis confirmed that additional sanctions are being considered. He said, however, that possible sanctions are also being considered against other airlines involved in the transport of migrants to Belarus.

"We need to send a message [...] that they are under the EU's radar and that is not OK what they are doing," he said.

Almost 4,200 migrants, most Iraqi citizens, have crossed into Lithuania from Belarus illegally so far this year. Vilnius accuses the Minsk regime of orchestrating the unprecedented migration influx, calling it "hybrid aggression"

In a bid to stem the flow, Lithuania in early August introduced a policy of pushing migrants back to Belarus.