Last week, Lithuania started to put up fences along its border with Belarus after a horde of migrants entered the country from the neighbour. Vilnius has accused Belarusian authorities of encouraging the flow of migrants illegally into Lithuania, an EU member state, in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Belarus by the bloc over human rights abuses and other issues.
In the last 2 months, nearly 1,500 people have crossed into Lithuania from Belarus, a number that is 20 times that what was seen in the entire year of 2020.
The fence that is being constructed is two layers of barbed wire fence that will cover nearly 550 kilometers (340 miles) of the nearly 680-kilometer border. The cost of creating this border is estimated to come around €41 million ($48 million), according to Lithuania’s interior minister, Agne Bilotaite.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Shimonyte accuses Belarusian regime agencies of being actively and passively involved in organizing the flow of illegal migrants. The conditions for crossing the border are created deliberately, and we tend to see behind that, among other things, the purpose to harm our state and destabilize the situation,” she said. She said her government considered the actions by Belarus to be directed against the entire EU rather than Lithuania itself.
President Alexander Lukashenko said this week that Belarus would not close its borders “and become a camp for people fleeing Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Tunisia.” He added that such migrants were not wanting to come to Belarus but to “the enlightened, warm and cozy Europe.”
The president’s mocking comments came in as the always strained relations with the EU hit a new low following the forced landing of a Ryanair passenger jet in Minsk to detain a Belarusian dissident journalist. Lithuania has given support and refuge to opposition figures from Belarus following elections there in 2020. Lukashenko won the elections but the West has widely condemned the elections to be rigged.