Foreign minister: Illegal migration as political tool must be stopped
Politically managed, illegal migration must be halted, foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) says.
Liimets said Thursday that: "The flow of people directed by Belarus across the EU and NATO's external borders is a politically organized hybrid attack by the Belarusian regime."
"This is not just a Lithuanian or Latvian problem - it is clear, proceeding from the solidarity and cooperation of the Baltic countries, that, together, we must not let the security of our region to be undermined," she added, according to BNS.
Many of the 4,000 or so people who have illegally crossed into Lithuania from Belarus, along with significant numbers who have done the same into Latvia and Poland, which also border with Belarus, are according to media reports of Iraqi origin, and had been arriving in Minsk by air, before either making their own way, or even being ferried over by Belarusian authorities, to the border with Lithuania and the EU a little over 100km away.
However, Liimets said that no air connections between Belarus and Iraq are currently open, following a decision by the latter's government, which Liimets praised.
"The Iraqi government's decision to close air routes between Iraq and Belarus is a good example of the importance of international relations in tackling complex problems," she said, adding that there are other countries who may provide a source of human pawns for the Lukashenko regime to use. "Iraq may not be the last country whose citizens the regime will try and lure into politically-driven trafficking. The EU as a whole, as well as its member states, must be ready to react and intervene in the situation at an early stage to prevent pressure on the EU's external borders."
One migrant who recently talked to ERR news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) at a migrant camp on the Lithuanian side of the border said that she was originally from Cameroon.
Estonia has also deployed a unit of 10 Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) personnel in Lithuania since last month, as well as tents, barbed wire and other items, and supports Lithuania via the framework of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and Frontex joint operations, BNS reports. Frontex is the EU's border guard authority.
Liimets added two key policy planks: Solidarity with Lithuania and Latvia, on the part of all EU member states, and raising awareness of the issue in the countries of origin, like Iraq, of those being exploited by the Lukashenko regime.
A joint statement adopted at the meeting of the Baltic prime ministers on August 6 also reaffirms the countries' determination to protect the EU's external border against illegal migration from Belarus, whole the diplomatic route is also important in resolving the matter, Liimets, a former diplomat herself, says.
Follow ERR News on Facebook and Twitter and never miss an update!
Editor: Andrew Whyte