Seimas revises asylum application procedures in response to the influx of irregular migrants

The Lithuanian-Belarusian border. Photo Ruslanas Iržikevičius i
The Lithuanian-Belarusian border. Photo Ruslanas Iržikevičius

At its extraordinary session, the Seimas adopted, under a special urgency procedure, amendments to the Law on the Legal Status of Aliens and the accompanying legislation, thereby providing for faster processing of asylum applications and restricting some of the rights of asylum seekers in cases where the state is not in a position to guarantee their rights due to a state of war or state of emergency, as well as emergency or an emergency event due to the mass influx of foreigners, according to a press release from the Seimas press office. 

A total of 84 Members of the Seimas voted in favour of the amendments to the basic act, with 1 vote against and 5 abstentions.

According to Agnė Bilotaitė, Minister of the Interior of Lithuania, our state is still experiencing an unprecedented influx of irregular migrants, which has increased 22-fold compared to 2020. She is convinced that this is not a traditional migration crisis, but rather targeted acts of hybrid aggression against Lithuania. ‘Recently, the growing number of foreigners who cross illegally the state border between the Republic of Lithuanian and the Republic of Belarus and who, when detected, abuse the asylum procedure, show that the increased irregular migration processes are driven by undemocratic regimes. It is likely that such a situation is not a one-off or a short-term problem, but that it may increase in magnitude and become repetitive’, noted the initiators of the amendments.

The amended law stipulates that asylum seekers may be detained or their right to leave the place of accommodation may be restricted if they enter the territory of the Republic of Lithuania illegally and cross the state border of the Republic of Lithuania during a state of war or state of emergency, as well as during an emergency or an emergency event declared due to a mass influx of foreigners.

The introduction of a state of war or state of emergency, as well as emergency or an emergency event caused by a mass influx of foreigners, may result in a temporary and proportionate restriction of the rights of asylum seekers if they cannot be guaranteed for objective and justified reasons, with the exception of the right to material reception conditions, provision of essential medical assistance and state-guaranteed legal assistance. Vulnerable persons will be guaranteed the right to access the reception conditions appropriate to their needs. Should the reasons for this no longer exist, asylum seeker rights will have to be guaranteed for vulnerable persons as a matter of priority. 

In the event of large flows of asylum seekers and with a view to examining asylum applications as quickly as possible, asylum applications of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum and asylum seekers who have been subjected to torture, rape or other serious psychological, physical or sexual violence, may be dealt with as a matter of urgency following the declaration of a state of war or state of emergency, as well as emergency or an emergency event due to a mass influx of foreigners.

Currently, the Law provides for a maximum period of 28 days, during which asylum seekers may be refused entry into the Republic of Lithuania. In view of the increasing irregular migration flows, the 28-day deadline may be extended for the duration of a state of war or state of emergency, as well as emergency or an emergency event due to a mass influx of foreigners and for 28 days following their termination but not longer than for 6 months.

In order to speed up final decisions on asylum applications and reduce the burden on courts, a mandatory pre-trial procedure for appeals against negative decisions will be introduced at the Migration Department. ‘Only following this procedure that the decision of the Migration Department may be appealed against before the Regional Administrative Court, whose decision will be final and not subject to appeal. During the entire asylum application period, as well as during the appeal, legal aid will have to be guaranteed to the foreigner’, Ms Bilotaitė said.

Another 57 illegal migrants have been detained in Lithuania over the past 24 hours after crossing in from Belarus, the State Border Guard Service said on Thursday morning, according to BNS news agency. This brings to 1,795 the total number of irregular migrants detained at Lithuania’s border with Belarus this year so far, a 22-fold increase compared to the whole of 2020. Of them, 854 are or say they are, Iraqi citizens. The list also includes 198 Congolese citizens, 121 Cameroonians, 78 Guinean, 70 Iranians, and 66 Russian nationals.

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