This year alone, it’s estimated that over 4000 illegal migrants crossed the border from Belarus to Lithuania, a brand new record. To combat this, the Lithuanian government plans to build a giant fence along the border. It will be a giant 13 foot (4 meter) fence topped with barbed wire, the approximate cost is about $178 million (£128 million). Any migrant who agrees to turn back will also be given €300, according to LRT. “Without this physical barrier, it is impossible to protect our borders, it is very clear,” said Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite. Along with announcing the construction, Lithuania also accused Belarus of intentionally flying in migrants near the border, who then proceed to cross it.
As you may expect, Belarus wasn’t all too happy with this. They especially weren’t all too enthusiastic when they found out that Lithuania had been secretly supporting Belarusian opposition activists. They were so angry that they forced a plane heading to Lithuania to divert to Minsk where an opposition journalist and his girlfriend were arrested. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko also stated that they wouldn’t be accepting any migrants from Lithuania. “If they don’t calm down at the borders, they will get an all-out sock on the jaw,” Mr Lukashenko said.
So far, the EU doesn’t want to help directly fund the construction, but will still provide guards. However, Lithuania isn’t the only one facing this problem. Other countries such as Latvia and Poland have dealt with illegal migrants being flown in from Belarus for years. Latvia has actually declared a state of emergency and said that they’ll also be working on strengthening security along the border, even if that means returning illegal migrants by force.
Poland, like Lithuania, is also planning on building a fence along its border with Belarus as well as increasing military presence in the area. The fence will be about 2.5 meters tall (8.2 feet), a bit shorter than Lithuania’s. “It is necessary to increase the number of soldiers. … We will soon double the number of soldiers to 2,000,” said Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak. The Polish Government has also come under criticism from human rights activists over a recent issue involving their border with Belarus.
A while ago, a group of migrants trying to enter the country near the village of Usnarz Gorny were held up for two weeks by Polish border guards who wouldn’t allow them to come near. The Polish Human Rights Ombudsman claimed that the border patrol violated the rules of the Geneva Convention, which call for treatment of the wounded, civilians, and military/medical personnel during times of war or armed conflicts. “People were asking the border guards for protection and the border guards were pushing them back,” said Piotr Bystrainin, a member of the Ocalenie Foundation, which helps refugees.
Ocalenia Foundation translator Mahdeih Gholami stated that polish soldiers were also interfering with her efforts to communicate with the migrants. “When I start to say something, the soldiers turn on engines,” she said. However, the Polish government said that allowing these migrants in would only further encourage illegal migration, and that it’s all a plan by the Belarusian president. “These are not refugees, they are economic migrants brought in by the Belarusian government,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz.
For now, we’ll just have to wait and see what becomes of the border situation for further details…
If you want to learn more information about this matter, please click:
Here to learn more about Lithuania’s situation
Or here to learn more about Poland’s situation