EU condemns Belarus for “putting pressure” on Lithuania with migrants – Michel –

European Council President Charles Michel will hold a video meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of the EU Summit in the European Council building in Brussels on June 21, 2021. Olivier Hoslet / Pool via REUTERS

VILNIUS, July 5 (Reuters) – The European Union “speaks with one voice” when it condemns a decision by Belarus to allow illegal migrants to enter Lithuania in response to EU sanctions, European Council President Charles said Michel, on Monday.

The Lithuanian government declared a nationwide state of emergency on Friday as the influx of mainly Iraqi migrants from Belarus reached around 150 a day, more than in the previous three years. Continue reading

“My colleagues in the European Council are very aware that … the Belarusian authorities are using irregular migration to put pressure on the European Union, including Lithuania,” Michel said at a joint press conference in Vilnius with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda.

“The European Union loudly and unanimously condemns the pressure (that is exerted) through the efforts of migrants. I want to express the solidarity of the European Union, ”he added. “It is my personal wish to assure Lithuania of the solidarity of the member states.”

Michel said he would speak to the Iraqi president next week to discuss the repatriation of Iraqi nationals.

In the four days between Friday and Monday, 560 migrants crossed the 679 kilometer long border between Lithuania and Belarus, making a total of 1,232 for this year.

“It is very complicated to communicate with the regime, whose legitimacy we do not recognize and who sends migrants not accidentally or negligently, but on purpose – as a political instrument,” said Nauseda at the press conference.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on May 26 that his country would no longer prevent migrants from crossing its western border into the EU.

This followed the EU’s imposition of sanctions after a Ryanair plane landed in Minsk, where a Belarusian dissident was arrested on board.

“We used to catch migrants here in droves – now forget it, you catch them yourself,” said Lukashenko.

Michel promised more officers from the EU border and coast guard Frontex to help with the patrol on the Lithuanian-Belarusian border.

The government in Vilnius has ordered the construction of a tent village with space for 1,000 people and has asked all municipalities to find accommodation for the migrants.

(This story corrects in the fifth paragraph that Michel said he would speak to the Iraqi President next week, not the Prime Minister)

Reporting by Andrius Sytas; Editing by Catherine Evans

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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