Czechs promise Lithuania 530,000 euros for the border with Belarus

VILNIUS, Lithuania (dpa) – The Czech Republic pledged 530,000 euros to Lithuania on Tuesday to secure the border with Belarus after thousands of migrants from the former Soviet republic crossed the border.

Lithuania, a member of the European Union on the northeastern border of the 27-nation bloc, has faced an influx of mainly Iraqi migrants from neighboring Belarus in recent months.

She has accused the government of authoritarian Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of encouraging the flow of migrants in retaliation for EU sanctions against his country after a passenger plane was diverted to arrest a journalist critical of the regime on board.

Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite and Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek have signed a document aimed at speeding up the construction of the fence along the border with Belarus.

“Lukashenko continues to use illegal migration as a weapon to blackmail Lithuania and thus also the EU,” said Kulhanek. “He has to be stopped.”

The move comes after Lithuania asked other EU countries and the border agency Frontex for assistance.

In August, the EU Commission pledged 12 million euros to Lithuania and neighboring Estonia, while Ukraine sent hundreds of kilometers of barbed wire into the country.

Denmark has offered to sell 15 kilometers of barbed wire “in order to strengthen the Lithuanian border efforts along the border with Belarus,” Danish immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye told the Danish parliament. Denmark also offered the Baltic country housing containers, immigration experts and sanitation.

Lithuania, a country of fewer than 3 million people, has no physical barriers on its 679 km long border with Belarus. More than 4,100 migrants, most of them from Iraq, moved from Belarus to Lithuania this year. Thousands were turned away at the border after Lithuania decided in August to actively prevent new entries. Some of them have already returned to Iraq after receiving payments from the government for the trip.

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