Lithuania’s foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis and EU foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell accused Belarus of using migrants as a political weapon to put pressure on the EU, at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday.
Lithuanian officials urged the EU to place a new round of punitive measures on Belarus and its ruler, Alexander Lukashenko, for sending a large number of migrants across its border and into the Baltic state.
Lithuanian authorities have also asked for help from the EU’s border guard agency Frontex, who have agreed to conduct an operation to stem the flow of these migrants, sending additional personnel to gather information and conduct interviews with migrants.
Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri stated:
The situation at Lithuania’s border with Belarus remains worrying. I have decided to send a rapid border intervention to Lithuania to strengthen the EU’s external border. … We will reinforce our assistance and send additional border guards, patrol cars, and specialized officers for conducting interviews with migrants to gather information on the criminal networks involved. This is EU solidarity in action.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte announced last week that the country would be building extra defenses on the border with Belarus after 822 migrants tried to enter the country illegally in the first six months of 2021, according to Frontex.
This comes after Lukashenka said in May that his country would no longer prevent migrants from crossing its western border into the EU.
Lithuania has been a strict critic of Lukashenko, calling for a robust EU response against his regime. Landsbergis said as he arrived in Brussels for the meeting, “when refugees are used as a political weapon … I will talk to my colleagues in order for the European Union to have a common strategy.”