VILNIUS – Some 180 illegal migrants have been pushed back in Lithuania from midnight through Tuesday morning as they attempted to cross the Lithuanian-Belarusian border, Rustamas Liubajevas, chief of Lithuania's State Border Guard Service, said on Tuesday.
"More than 100 migrants were not allowed into the territory of the Republic of Lithuania," he told journalists and later updated the number to around 180.
Border guards received mandate for the push-back of illegal migrants under the order signed on Monday night by Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite.
No special measures were used to order migrants to turn around, Liubajevas said, but he refrained from providing information on specific example of how those attempting to cross the border are pushed back to Belarus.
"I could really not, at this stage, comment on tactical solutions since all of us need to perform our duties. As the SBGS commander, I have to ensure general command and officers accordingly have to perform their duties," he said.
"In every specific case, officers in place make decisions on the use of deterrence measures or any other measures of impact," he said.
In his words, migrants were turned back along the whole Lithuanian-Belarusian border, mainly in the area around Varena, southern Lithuania.
On Monday night, Bilotaite signed an order for border guards to push back incoming illegal migrants and direct them to border checkpoints or diplomatic representations.
Border guards were also allowed to use mental and physical force against irregular migrants.
Those attempting to cross the frontier elsewhere must not be allowed to enter Lithuania's territory and have to be directed to the nearest operating international border control point.
Under the decision, deterrence measures defined by law have to be used against persons resisting officers' legitimate demands. The articles on the state border and its protection, cited in Bilotaite's decision, speak about the use of mental and physical force.
Under the law, force can be used against persons resisting officers' demands or instructions to make them comply, as well as during the detention of persons, if they resist, to prevent criminal acts or administrative offences.
A record-high number of illegal migrants, 4,026, have illegally entered Lithuania from Belarus so far this year, with Lithuanian officials calling the influx of illegal migrants the Belarusian regime's hybrid aggression against Lithuania.
A state-level extreme situation is now in place in Lithuania.