A country with only around 3 million population, #Lithuania, a European Union member acceded to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol (“the 1951 Refugee Convention”) in 1997. The arrival of refugees is not a very common or popular theme in public circles in Lithuania. It would see roughly just 70 persons entering the country via Belarus. In sum, Lithuania has had little or no experience with a situation like today when 1000s of refugees are crossing into the border. #Belarus President Alexander #Lukashenko is blamed for his act of weaponizing #migration for political motives leading to today’s situation.
In what is seen as a reactionary move, the Lithuanian parliament voted to allow mass detention of #asylumseekers. Currently, any applicant not being granted asylum will receive a temporary resident permit. The legislation is intended "to send a message to Iraqis and others that this is not a convenient route, conditions will not be good here", Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite said in introducing the bill. UNHCR‘s representative for the Baltic region said “emergency phase” was over and Lithuania must focus on the #wellbeing of the people at detention centers and process the claims for international protection. “#Pushbacks of people seeking #asylum are not compatible with the Geneva Convention on Refugee Status, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and other human rights instruments” Egle Samuchovaite, program director for Lithuania’s Red Cross.