Risks related to terrorist-linked migrants brought under control – Lithuanian officials

  • 2021-10-15
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Migrants suspected of being linked to terrorist organizations have been isolated and pose no threat, Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas and Laurynas Kasciunas, chairman of the parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defense, said on Friday.

Speaking with journalists in Vilnius, Kasciunas said that "several dozen" people who entered Lithuanian from Belarus are all isolated.

"They are completely neutralized, those people today (…) are brought under control, risks are completely controlled," he said.

Asked whether there could more of such people, the politician said "the number is final".

"They are under surveillance and have no means of communication. Terrorism is an activity that involves the organization of activity of small groups. They cannot do such activity even theoretically. At least in certain zones they are controlled, and we know where they are," he said.

Anusauskas said that all irregular migrants who entered Lithuania have been checked by Lithuania's special services and those of its partners.

All available technical means, such as fingerprints, facial recognition software and others, were used for this purpose, according to the minister. 

Kasciunas pointed out that the identified persons' ties with terrorism "can be indirect and distant", confirming that there are Iraqis among such persons.

"Yes, there are Iraqis among them," he said, adding that migrants' links with terrorist might involve relatives, as well as "friends, acquaintances, contacts".

Neither Kasciunas nor Anusauskas would say which terrorist and extremist organizations the migrants are suspected of having links to.  

"If we don't have our own capabilities to check, we rely on the capabilities of our partners," the defense minister told reporters. "Information from partners is not our information, so we have to keep all the information we learn secret." 

Anusauskas noted that some of the identified and isolated foreign nationals tried to conceal their criminal past.

"This is not necessarily a link to a paramilitary group in the Middle East, but also a criminal past that they tried to hide," he said.

Kasciunas said that decisions on whether such people are sent out or just need to be isolated depend on whether investigations in their cases are completed and on collected evidence, as well as on "the seriousness of those cases and, with no doubt, the attitude of the country of origin".

Lithuania will seek to ensure that all these persons are returned to their country of origin, Kasciunas said, adding that, in his opinion, no problems regarding this are expected.

"Iraq itself has that characteristic of not willing to accept economic migrants back, but they really do like terrorists," the CNSD chairman said.

The lawmaker confirmed to the Delfi news website earlier that since July when an extreme situation was declared in Lithuania, four people have been sent out of the country due to their links with terrorism, and more than ten are being watched as no decisions in their cases have been made yet.

Nearly 4,200 migrants, mostly 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 over the border into Belarus.