Foreign minister: Belarus human trafficking into Lithuania unacceptable
The pressure exerted by Belarus on the EU's external border is unacceptable, foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) says.
Significant numbers of people have been crossing the Belarus-Lithuania border for several weeks now, a phenomenon described as hybrid warfare on the part of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.
Liimets said that: "We stand in solidarity with Lithuania and our position is that Europe as a whole needs to do more to help secure the external border of the EU. The EU also needs to use all measures against those responsible for trafficking in human beings that would contribute to the resolution of the situation, including discussing the possibility of sanctions."
"Using migratory pressure and trafficking in human beings as a political lever and cynically taking advantage of ordinary people, often in violation of human rights, must stop," Liimets continued, according to a ministry press release.
"The countries of departure for irregular migration must be made aware that their citizens are being used for political aims. Stopping the situation that has developed is without a doubt in the interests of all parties."
"Right now, the priority is to stop the flow of migrants arriving in Lithuania without legal grounds, and cooperate on all levels to improve repatriation." she continued.
Liimets met her Lithuanian counterpart Gabrielius Landsbergis Monday, to discuss the crisis and any potential sanctions on organisers of human trafficking, the foreign ministry says.
Liimets also talked about the issue with European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, who has called for the installation of permanent fencing on Lithuania's land border with Belarus.
Lithuania's capital, Vilnius, lies only around 30km from the border with Belarus. Latvia, too borders with Belarus, while Estonia does not.
Liimets also talked to Iraq's foreign minister Fuad Hussein Tuesday, calling the discussions a success. Many of the migrants crossing from Belarus into Lithuania have come from Iraq, with others traveling from other parts of the Middle-East, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Confirmed good bilateral relations with FM Fuad Hussein today when we discussed partnership in the ICT sector and commitment to assist ensuring security of Iraq. Addressed also the regional security issues, incl the situation on the border.— Eva-Maria Liimets (@eliimets) August 3, 2021
This article was updated to include foreign minister Liimets' confirmation she had discussed issues with Fuad Hussein.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte