Saturday 10/16/21

Lithuania starts building fence amid influx of immigrants via Belarus

The installation of a barbed wire barrier has started, it will have a total length of 550 kilometres

Lithuania has begun building a wire fence on its border with Belarus in the face of a sharp rise in the number of illegal entrants.

"The installation of a barbed wire barrier has been launched today and, according to plans, it will have a total length of 550 kilometres," Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite said on Friday, according to the BNS agency.

"Also, a decision has been made to build a fence at the border with Belarus. We think we could do that quickly enough, such a fence would cost approximately 41 million euros (48 million dollars)," Bilotaite said.

A border guard spokesman said soldiers would erect the barrier near the spa town of Druskininkai, close to the border triangle with Belarus and Poland.

The length of this section of the border is 30 kilometres, he said in Vilnius on Friday, according to the BNS agency.

Authoritarian Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko has repeatedly threatened the European Union that he would let through refugees from war zones in response to sanctions imposed on Minsk.

Lithuania, which has an almost 680-kilometre-long border with Belarus, is particularly affected. According to official data, more than 1,500 people have been apprehended, 37 of them within 24 hours, the border guard announced on Friday.

From Africa and Middle East

Most of the refugees come from countries in the Middle East and Africa and have already applied for asylum in Lithuania.

On Friday, the government in Vilnius agreed on legal amendments in order to speed up the screening process. In a next step, parliament will approve the changes.

The Cabinet had already declared a state of emergency in order to react more easily and quickly. Lithuania's President Gitanas Nauseda also convened the national security council for Monday.

Polish border guards are also currently apprehending more migrants at the border with Belarus. So far this year, 235 migrants have arrived, 90 of them since the beginning of July alone, a spokeswoman for the agency said.

In the whole of 2020, 114 migrants arrived via that route.