Lithuanian parliament to debate building fence on Belarus border


  • World
  • Tuesday, 10 Aug 2021

FILE PHOTO: Lithuanian army soldiers install razor wire on the border with Belarus in Druskininkai, Lithuania July 9, 2021. REUTERS/Janis Laizans/File Photo

VILNIUS (Reuters) - The Lithuanian parliament will on Tuesday debate whether to build a high metal fence topped with razor wire on its border with Belarus to stop migrants who have been crossing in record numbers.

Rising numbers of migrants have reached Lithuania, Latvia and Poland from Belarus in recent weeks. Authorities in those countries have accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of using them to put pressure on the EU to reverse sanctions against his country.

If approved by parliament, Lithuania would build a four-metre-high (13ft 1in) metal fence topped with razor wire on 508 km (316 miles) of the 670 km border it shares with Belarus, at a cost of 152 million euros ($178 million), the Baltic News Service agency reported, citing the Lithuanian State Border Guard Service.

Parliament will also debate whether to allow the Lithuanian military to patrol the border and temporarily restrict asylum-seekers to making their applications only at designated locations, such as border checkpoints or embassies, rather than at any point on Lithuanian territory.

Currently only frontier guards are allowed to patrol the border.

So far this year some 4,026 individuals have illegally crossed into Lithuania, a country of 2.8 million inhabitants, from Belarus, the Lithuanian interior ministry said in a statement on Aug. 3, compared with 74 in total in 2020.

Most come from Iraq, followed by the Republic of Congo and Cameroon, according to the Lithuanian State Border Guard Service. Lithuanian authorities have said Belarus allows these individuals to reach the Lithuanian border after they have flown in by plane to the Belarusian capital, Minsk.

The parliamentary debate over the fence starts on Tuesday. It was not immediately clear when a vote would take place.

In neighbouring Latvia, some 160 people have been detained for illegally crossing the border from Belarus, authorities said on Monday, prompting the Latvian interior minister to ask the government to declare a state of emergency on the border.

($1 = 0.8522 euros)

(Reporting by Janis Laizans, Gwladys Fouche and Nerijus Adomaitis, writing by Gwladys Fouche; editing by John Stonestreet)

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