Lithuanian Minister Calls Migrant Flows From Belarus ‘Profitable, Well-Organized’ Plan
June 27, 2021 20:10 GMT – By RFE/RL
Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite said Belarusian officials were behind the surge in migrants this year into the Baltic, calling it a “well-organized” plan.
In an interview with the popular Baltic news portal Delfi published on June 27, Bioltaite said immigrants are paying as much as $15,000 to be transported over the border.
“We really have evidence of the involvement of Belarusian border guards in this process, this is a fact. This is an organized activity, a certain scheme — well-organized, planned. This is a lot of money,” she said.
More than 550 people have been caught so far this year illegally entering Lithuania from neighboring Belarus more than seven times the figure for all of 2020 and more than 12 times the number for 2019.
Iraqi nationals are the largest group of migrants entering Lithuania from Belarus followed by Iranians, Syrians, and Belarusians.
The migrant influx comes amid tense relations between the West and Belarus over its crackdown on peaceful protesters.
Baltic states have been among the most outspoken against the actions of strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka and have welcomed opposition leaders.
Bioltaite called Belarusian government’s involvement a form of hybrid warfare.
“This is obviously a profitable crime involving the regime and the officials themselves,” she said.
Bioltaite said there is no indication that Lithuanian citizens are involved, but added that her ministry is monitoring the situation.
The minister called the influx of migrants a “problem” not just for Lithuania, but for the EU. Most of them are using Lithuania as a transit country to other nations in the bloc, she said.
Lithuania currently has about 38 percent of its border with Belarus covered with video surveillance systems, Bilotaite said, and hopes to get it up to 100 percent in the near future.
She said she has requested help from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, which has so far sent six officers and will send 30 more in July.