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Peaceful protest at a Lithuanian detention centre violently dispersed

On Feb 7th, dozens of men from various African countries, initiated a peaceful #demonstration and a #hungerstrike against the appalling treatment and violent conduct of officers in the #detentioncentre for foreigners in #Pabradė, #Lithuania. They chanted “Freedom!” and “We are not criminals”, while holding signs saying “You said six months, it’s been seven months now. We need freedom” or “We are people, not weapons” (referring to the definition of #asylumseekers as Lukashenko’s biological weapon).

The #protesters knelt down in front of the armed officers, but the #guards still used #teargas. Some were handcuffed and taken away, while others were attacked with #stunguns, reports the Lithuanian media. Those #detained by the guards will most likely end up in #solitaryconfinement or will be #deported upon completion of their sentence.

The protesters have been detained since entering Lithuania to seek #asylum 7 months ago. According to Lithuanian law, a person can only stay in such centre for 6 months. However, for many, the stay has been extended with no prospects of change on the horizon.

“We are tired, we want freedom. We are fed up with violence, we protested peacefully, we didn't even touch the exit gate, but they beat up some of us and took others, we don't know where.”

“The Lithuanian government sees us as Lukashenko’s weapon, but that's not true. We came here to apply for asylum, as it is done in other #European countries, because we were in danger in our homelands. We are not considered refugees, but criminals."

The mental health of #refugees and asylum seekers is severely affected by this situation. Frequent panic attacks, suicide attempts, nervous breakdowns, as well as violent acts by the officers happen daily.

Last fall, protests broke out in another Lithuanian centre in #Verebiejai, during which the officers were heard saying: “We don’t care if you die”, “You must be a terrorist”, “You came here voluntarily, so don’t cry”, “Do you want to commit suicide? Go ahead, even now”. Even in the Lithuanian Ombudsman’s report, the word “torture” was surprisingly often used to describe the conditions of the detention centres.

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