Some of the asylum seekers apprehended at the border had their Belarusian visas dated the same day, leading Lithuanians to believe that the visas might have been issued on the plane before they were dropped at the Lithuanian border.
Lithuanian authorities who interviewed the migrants say that they paid between US $ 2,000 and US $ 4,000 for a “package tour” from Baghdad to the EU border in their home countries.
Belarusian border guards have been ignoring desperate requests and questions from their colleagues for weeks. Some of them told the Lithuanians about the asylum seekers: “Maybe these people fell from heaven,” said Abromavicius.
When the Lithuanian Interior Minister phoned the Telegraph, he was told that a group of 42 people had been sighted near the border.
“Let’s imagine how difficult it would be to get unnoticed from the Belarusian side (to Lithuania).”
Belarusian border guards deny the allegations, saying that they comply with “all regulations and agreements with border guards in neighboring countries”.
Human rights activists working with refugees in Belarus describe the sudden surge in asylum seekers from the Middle East as unprecedented and point to the hallmarks of an organized effort.
“It seems that someone in Belarus is promoting this as a route to Europe,” Alyona Chekhovich, a lawyer for the Belarusian NGO Human Constanta, which provides legal assistance to foreigners in Belarus, told the Telegraph.
“We have never experienced such a flow.”
While the Lithuanian authorities have now started talks with Iraq about a possible readmission agreement and hope to be able to dissuade the asylum seekers, who they believe have been deceived by the regime, from traveling to Lithuania, Ms. Chekhovich does not see how the EU is preventing people from doing so can pour into Belarus
“It will be hard to get people to stop coming here,” she said.
The Belarusian dictator, who has ruled the country since 1994, has hinted that desperate asylum seekers will be turned into weapons and deposed on the doorstep of the EU.
“They ask us to protect them from smugglers and drugs,” said Lukashenko on Tuesday in an emotional speech at an event on the anniversary of the Second World War in western Belarus about the EU.
“I can’t help but ask: have you gone crazy? You have unleashed a hybrid war against us and are now demanding that we protect you as before? “
He also referred to “hundreds of millions of dollars” that Belarus had spent on protecting the EU border.
“Either he is lying or he is poorly informed about his own country’s international obligations,” Deputy Foreign Minister Adomenas told the Telegraph, citing an agreement on border controls and readmission of illegal migrants that Belarus signed with the EU exactly a year ago.
The increase in asylum seekers also appears to be related to the EU’s discussions on sanctions against Belarus.
Before Monday, when the EU passed its fourth package of sanctions against the regime, Lithuania had not seen any illegal border crossings for several days, said Deputy Foreign Minister Adomenas. “After that they have 50 people a day again, that’s more than half of what we saw in a whole year,” he said.
“We know that Lukashenko will send more refugees if he decides to continue punishing Lithuania.”