Have migrants had their way? Assessing what fate awaits foreigners fleeing Lithuania

Everyday life for migrants at Rūdninkai training ground. Julius Kalinskas photo. 15min.lt

It is not important how many migrants try to cross the Lithuanian border illegally, but how many actually manage to do so, said Laurynas Kasčiūnas, a conservative member of the Seimas, commenting on the renewed increase in illegal migration flows from Belarus in the summer, Ignas Grinevičius writing at lrytas.lt news portal.

Laurynas Kasčiūnas, the chairman of the Seimas Committee on National Security and Defence (NSGK), said on the “Lietuvos rytas” TV programme “New Day” that not a single migrant has entered Lithuania illegally since the reversal policy was launched and the problem of the migrants currently in the country will be solved soon.

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Flows have increased

Lithuanian border guards turned away 60 illegal migrants a day at the border with Belarus, compared to a record number of 81 foreigners turned away a few weeks ago.

During the programme, MEP Kasčiūnas pointed out that the “Moscow Road” is now open – illegal migrants operating and living in Russia are now trying to move towards the West, choosing Lithuania and Poland.

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“There are also migrants left over from the processes of a year ago. Sometimes, people are trying to cross our border for the eighth or ninth time – sometimes, our border guards even know them by face.

The increase in flows is evident. The fact is that we need to continue with the policy of reversal, to complete the physical barrier. We have to complete the border surveillance systems by the end of the year”, the politician said.

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Kasčiūnas stressed the importance of all three “pillars” working together – the border, the surveillance system and the reversal policy.

“Belarusian border guards help migrants to navigate to the weaker parts of our border, where, for example, there is no physical barrier – where there are still 20 kilometres to go.

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Also, where there is a fence but no border surveillance system, so they cut through or try to cross with ladders,” the MEP noted.

However, he said, officials are aware of these shortcomings and control them.

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“These are the things that we control – reaction time is very important. It is not important to count how many attempts (to cross the border) there are; it is important to count how many have entered Lithuania – zero. All the others are reversed”, Kasčiūnas said.

He assessed the fate of those who fled

Since the 3rd of August last year, when the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) acquired the right to turn away illegal migrants, almost 11.7 thousand of them have been refused entry to Lithuania from Belarus, although some of them have tried to enter the country several times.

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Before the reversal policy came into force, almost 4.4 thousand migrants entered Lithuania illegally.

According to Kasčiūnas, out of these 4.4 thousand migrants, about 1.3 thousand illegally-entered foreigners currently remain in Lithuania.

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“Only 1,300 of them remain in Lithuania, maybe even fewer, because, since June, they have had the right to move freely from accommodation centres due to various changes in the law.

According to the law, they have to register every 24 hours, but most of them don’t register – their final destination is the West, and that is what they want. They are moving towards Germany, towards France, towards their communities, towards their relatives, which are a kind of centre of attraction. We will not stop this process”, Kasčiūnas said.

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The politician admits that only a small part of disabled migrants who leave Lithuania are detained in foreign countries and returned.

“Some of them are detained in Poland and Germany and returned, but it is a very small part. I would venture to guess that the problem of people in accommodation centres will gradually resolve itself naturally,” he said.

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Meanwhile, according to Kasčiūnas, about 2.7 thousand irregular migrants who have already left Lithuania have probably already settled down in the Western European countries they sought.

“Their fate is apparently somewhere in their communities in Germany or elsewhere. In those countries, parallel societies have developed, let’s call them parallel societies, with an illegal labour market, with a certain amount of help for their compatriots, their relatives, or representatives of some clan. Naturally, they will settle there somewhere, and over a period of time, they will try to legalise themselves.

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These established communities in Western European countries are also a source of attraction for illegal migrants, who are also present in Lithuania,” Kasčiūnas said.

The chairman of the NSGK reiterated that despite the criticism and reproaches of NGOs, the Seimas should enshrine the policy of reversal in law.

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“The state of emergency will not last forever – it means that we need a sustainable solution, and the law is a sustainable solution. Moreover, I would like to say to the critics of the idea of the law that this is an opportunity to establish very clearly in law in which cases we do and do not carry out the reversal, and to establish certain humanitarian criteria,” said Kasčiūnas.

Hundreds of foreigners have fled from accommodation facilities since Lithuania stopped applying measures restricting the movement of irregular migrants.

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In July this year, more than 800 foreigners registered in Lithuania did not return to their accommodation places, while in June, about 500 cases of absconding were recorded, the Ministry of the Interior (MoI) announced

“Although the alien registration certificate issued to migrants registered in Lithuania does not give them the right to leave Lithuania or to apply for asylum and residence in another EU country, the majority of irregular migrants who leave accommodation centres try to reach other EU countries,” the ministry’s statement said.

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If migrants are detained in another EU country, they are then returned to Lithuania.

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