Estonia sending €200,000 aid to Lithuania amid migrant influx
Estonia is providing €200,000-worth of assistance to Lithuania, to help the southernmost Baltic State in dealing with an upsurge in numbers crossing its border with Belarus.
The aid is to be financed by the foreign ministry, via funds earmarked for humanitarian aid.
Foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) said that: "First, Estonia is going to the aid of a close neighbor".
"Second, immigrants arriving in Lithuania from Belarus, as a result of illegal migration flows, have an impact on the stability and security of the whole region. By helping Lithuania, we stand together for the security and values of all the Baltic states," she went on, according to a ministry press release.
"At this week's EU Foreign Affairs Council, I called on all member states to work more effectively with third countries to stem the flow of migration. In particular, we must work together to organize the return of illegal immigrants, while at the same time helping Lithuania to find a solution to the situation on the ground," Liimets continued.
Numbers of migrants crossing the border from Belarus into Lithuania – whose capital, Vilnius, lies only around 30 km from the frontier – have surged in recent weeks, with some estimates put in the region of 150 per day on some days.
EU leaders including, in Estonia, have pledged to come to Lithuania's aid and have hit out at the use of displaced persons – many of the individuals are from Iraq and Syria – as a political tool, by Belarus' leader Alexander Lukashenko.
Estonia's interior minister Kristian Jaani (Center) says that member states must help each other.
He said: "We take the migratory pressure on Lithuania extremely seriously. Lithuania is one of the Baltic States, and is our long-term partner. We are constantly cooperating, keeping each other informed and helping Lithuania to cope with the situation caused by the migrants. We assure you that they will not be left alone in a difficult situation. Helping Lithuania gives our people the confidence that in the event of a similar situation, Estonia will also be able to rely on our allies in the future."
Estonia has already sent several Police and Border Guard Board personnel to Lithuania.
While, unlike Lithuania and Latvia, it does not share a border with Belarus, it has also stepped up the monitoring of its own eastern borders, particularly on the land border in the southeast of the country, itself the subject of ongoing infrastructural improvements, including the installation of fencing.
The assistance is provided within the framework of the civil protection mechanism, in conjunction with the interior and foreign ministries, and the Rescue Board (Päästeamet) – the latter says it is prepared to send several tents and other equipment, including air con units and furnishings, the ministry reported.
Lithuania has requested assistance from EU member states as a whole, and their institutions and agencies.
All 27 member states are a part of the civil protection mechanism, along with non-EU nations Iceland, Norway, Serbia, Northern Macedonia, Montenegro and Turkey.
The mechanism acts as a way of quickly obtaining the assistance of signatory nations in the case of any emergency which a member state cannot deal with alone.
Lithuania is scheduled to provide feedback to all the member states that have so far pledged assistance next week
Croatia, Finland, Poland, Sweden, Greece and Slovenia have so far joined Estonia in promising assistance.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte