Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite said Belarusian officials were behind this year’s surge in migrants to the Baltic Sea, calling it a “well-organized” plan.
In one (n interview According to popular Baltic news portal Delfi, which was released on June 27, Bioltaite said immigrants are paying up to $ 15,000 for transportation across the border.
“We really have evidence of the involvement of the Belarusian border guards in this process, it is a fact. This is an organized activity, a specific scheme – well organized, planned. That’s a lot of money, ”she said.
More than 550 people have been caught illegally entering Lithuania from neighboring Belarus so far this year, more than seven times the 2020 total and more than 12 times the 2019 figure.
Iraqi nationals are the largest group of migrants entering Lithuania from Belarus, followed by Iranians, Syrians and Belarusians.
The influx of migrants comes amid strained relations between the West and Belarus because of its tough crackdown on peaceful protesters.
The Baltic states have spoken out most clearly against the actions of the strong man Aljaksandr Lukashenka and have welcomed opposition leaders.
Bioltaite called the Belarusian government‘s involvement a form of hybrid warfare.
“This is obviously a profitable crime involving the regime and the officials themselves,” she said.
Bioltaite said there was no evidence that Lithuanian citizens were involved, but added that their ministry was monitoring the situation.
The minister called the influx of migrants a “problem” not only for Lithuania but also for the EU. Most of them use Lithuania as a transit country to other nations in the bloc, she said.
Lithuania currently has about 38 percent of its border with Belarus covered with video surveillance systems, Bilotaite said, hoping it will climb to 100 percent in the near future.
She said she asked for help from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, which has deployed six officers so far and will deploy 30 more in July.
With reporting from Delfi