Saturday, December 3, 2022

Migrants stuck in Lithuania report dismal living conditions: ‘We have no hope’

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The Observers

Issued on: 11/02/2022 – 11:52

Our Observer sent us photos of the detention centre for migrants in Medininkai, Lithuania. © Observers

Following a Belarusian policy that attracted thousands of migrants into the country offering them the hope of crossing into the European Union, neighbouring Lithuania has received an unprecedented influx of migrants. Lithuanian authorities have sent these people to hastily built reception centres, where many of them remain in limbo, sometimes for months at a time. The migrants, many of them from Iraq, report living under difficult circumstances in the centres.

Last summer, thousands of migrants tried to enter the European Union – Poland, Latvia and Lithuania – from neighbouring Belarus. Most of them were Iraqis, who arrived by plane in the Belarusian capital Minsk from Baghdad on tourist visas. On the other hand, many Africans had already been living in Belarus for months or even years, often on student visas, when they tried to cross the border. 

At the time, the Belarusian president was accused of orchestrating the influx of migrants in retaliation for European sanctions. Overwhelmed by the influx, Lithuania began building a fence on its border. It had also opened detention centres to hold arrested migrants.

Our Observer, a migrant from francophone Africa who spoke to us anonymously, sent us photos and videos of the Medininkai detention centre, located two kilometres from the border with Belarus. He told us that he and other migrants are given little to eat and few hygiene supplies. They are also mistreated by guards and forced to go to their countries’ consulates against their will. 

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