Minister A. Bilotaitė suggests EU Ministers meet in Ukraine


2022 02 22

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Minister of the Interior of the Republic of Lithuania Agnė Bilotaitė together with Ministers of the European Union, Schengen, and Western Balkan countries on 21-22 February (in Austria) attended the conference on the return of irregular migrants. Ukraine is also on the agenda, with discussions on the impact of a possible military conflict between Russia and Ukraine on migration processes in Europe.

Ms. Bilotaitė invited the Ministers to contribute to the assistance for Ukraine, not only by providing the necessary material support but also by showing solidarity by visiting Ukraine. The Minister proposed that the meeting of EU Interior Ministers could be held in Ukraine.

Ms. Bilotatė said, “With the security situation in Ukraine deteriorating sharply due to Russia's aggressive actions, I call on Ministers to be active and show support for Ukraine by all means available – political backing, humanitarian support, asylum to the ones who will need to flee the country. We should also prepare the ground for a swift adoption of EU sanctions against Russia".

According to Ms. Bilotaitė, the experience with the hybrid attack organized by the Belarus regime has shown that preparedness is a key factor in successfully managing a crisis. Lithuania is preparing for the provision of necessary support to Ukraine and for the potential inflow of Ukrainian nationals. Together with NGOs, municipalities, and business representatives, discussions are taking place on the resettlement of potential migrants, as well as on legal status, social support, employment, health care, education, and the necessary changes in legislation.

The urgent material needs of Ukraine were identified and shared bilaterally, Lithuania is currently assessing the possibilities of providing this assistance. Ukraine has also requested assistance through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

Ministers are also discussing the return of irregular migrants at the conference in Austria. According to Ms. Bilotaitė, migration is taking on new forms and, in addition to the well-established migration routes such as the Balkan route, new, even artificial, routes are now emerging, such as the route to the EU through Belarus initiated by the Lukashenko regime.

"The European Union is certainly ready to help refugees at risk, but there will be no place for irregular migration. Irregular migrants must be returned to their countries of origin, and this requires a joint effort", says Ms. Bilotaitė.

At the conference, the Minister outlined Lithuania's efforts to promote the voluntary return of migrants to their countries of origin, as well as its diplomatic efforts for more effective cooperation with Iraq. Without the support of the European Commission, EU agencies, and partners, it would have been much more difficult to persuade countries of origin to take back their citizens, she said. The Minister said that support had been provided both in establishing contact with countries of origin and transit and in the practical implementation of returns.

The Migration Department processed 3 313 applications and granted asylum to 105 foreigners, while others are awaiting deportation to their countries of origin. A total of 784 foreigners have been returned voluntarily to their countries of origin since the beginning of last year. Irregular migrants who have not been granted asylum in Lithuania and who agree to return to their country of origin voluntarily will again benefit from a one-off payment of €1,000 until 21 May. Around 60 more migrants are currently considering a voluntary return to their countries of origin.