Minister Bilotaitė: protection of human rights has always been a priority for Lithuania

The Ministry of the Interior, having read the Amnesty International report, notes that, despite open cooperation in providing information for the report, it tends to reflect the views and testimonies of only one side. 

According to the Minister of the Interior, Agnė Bilotaitė, since the beginning of the irregular migration crisis in 2021, Lithuanian authorities have continuously cooperated with all human rights institutions and organisations, and have adhered to the principle of open dialogue and the rule of law.

"The protection of human rights and compliance with international law has been and remains a priority for Lithuania. Lithuania has provided and continues to provide humanitarian, medical, social and legal assistance to foreigners in need," said Minister Bilotaitė.

According to the Minister, the constant contact with non-governmental organisations has enabled to deal with the problems of accommodation of foreigners and to control the flows of illegal migration more quickly and efficiently. This is not only reflected in the actions taken by the authorities to improve irregular migrants’ conditions of stay in Lithuania but also in the efforts to improve legislation (including the proposals of NGOs).

"At the beginning of the crisis, the Lithuanian authorities were not prepared to receive so many migrants in such a short time, but thanks to great efforts, the necessary material infrastructure and legal framework have been put in place for the migrants. Actions taken at both national and international level have helped to improve migrants' conditions of stay and normalise the processes," said Minister Bilotaitė.

It should be noted that the State Border Guard Service under the Ministry of the Interior (SBGS) is subject to the highest human rights standards, vulnerability assessment, humanitarian and social assistance.

"Lithuanian border guards, whose main function is to ensure proper protection of the state border, had to carry out many logistical functions unrelated to their work during the hybrid attack. The aim has been and continues to be to improve the living conditions of migrants, the infrastructure of foreigners' registration centres etc., but "in return", the officers of the SBGS have been constantly provoked, openly insulted, and accused of unreal things," says Rustam Liubaev, the head of the SBGS.

Lithuania offers every irregular migrant the possibility of a dignified voluntary return to their country of origin, with a one-off financial incentive. Around one in four irregular migrants has chosen this option. In total, around 1 100 foreigners have been returned voluntarily to their countries of origin since the beginning of the irregular migration crisis. 

Currently, around 2 600 migrants are living in five Lithuanian Registration Centres. Only 3-4% of the total number of asylum applications submitted have been granted asylum. 130 foreigners have been granted asylum in Lithuania and the integration process has started.

It is essential that both international organisations and NGOs help migrants to return to their countries of origin, provide the necessary assistance and take active steps to prevent migrants from being used as tools for the political ends of authoritarian regimes.

We recall that the migration crisis has been artificially created by the Belarusian regime to exert political pressure on the EU and its Member States. Lithuania is facing unprecedented migration flows. And this was not ordinary migration but a new phenomenon - a hybrid attack and instrumentalised migration by a third country, Belarus.

The massive illegal border crossings from the Republic of Belarus, which started in 2021, demonstrate the need to establish safeguards to prevent the abuse of the border management and asylum system and to effectively manage migration flows.

Nevertheless, the Ministry of the Interior, together with other state institutions, continues to look for solutions to the situation and to cooperate closely with other countries, international organisations and non-governmental organisations. 

In view of the sharp increase in irregular migrant flows, on 2 July 2021 a state-level emergency has been declared in Lithuania.

On 9 November last year, Lithuania was placed in a state of emergency in view of the critical situation in the country due to the massive influx of foreigners and the European Commission's recognition of the use of third-country migrants as a hybrid attack by the Belarusian regime aimed at destabilising the European Union.