EU border guards sent to Lithuania

3 July, 2021 12:00 AM printer

VILNIUS: A first team of six guards from the EU border agency Frontex began working in Lithuania on Friday, as the Baltic state reported another sharp rise in migrants arriving from Belarus.

The Lithuanian border guard service said that over the last 24 hours alone they had detained 150 migrants -- almost twice as many as for the whole of 2020, reports AFP. That brings the total number of detected illegal crossings by migrants, most of them from the Middle East, to more than 800 so far this year.

In the whole of 2020, there were 81 detected crossings. "The situation is tense and has a tendency to deteriorate further," Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told AFP.

"The goal of the foreign ministry is clear -- economic migrants who cross the EU border illegally have to be returned to the place they left," he said.

The government, which is strongly opposed to Belarusian strongman President Alexander Lukashenko, has said it suspects the authorities there are allowing the migrants through the border.

European Parliament speaker David Sassoli also voiced "concern" Friday about the situation on the Belarus-Lithuania border.

"Once again someone is unacceptably playing with people's lives," he said.

Two weeks ago, the Lithuanian military set up several tents for the migrants to cope with the increased numbers.

The number of Frontex boarder guards deployed on the border with Belarus is expected to increase to 30 later this month.