President Lukashenko says the migrants Lithuania turns away will not be allowed back into Belarus.
Poland and Lithuania have called on European institutions to help them deal with a surge in migrants crossing over their borders from Belarus, as tensions between European Union countries and Minsk continue to grow.
Belarus’s border protection agency said on Friday that it tightened control along its border with Lithuania to prevent Lithuanian authorities from sending migrants back to Belarus.
On Thursday, Poland accused Belarus of sending a growing number of migrants over the border in retaliation for Warsaw’s decision this week to give refuge to Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, a Belarusian athlete who refused to return home from the Tokyo Olympics.
“We condemn the weaponisation of irregular migration by the Lukashenko regime with a goal of exerting political pressure on the EU and its individual Member States,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said in a joint statement.
In the past two days alone, 133 people were stopped at the Belarusian border with Poland, compared to 122 during the whole of last year, a spokesperson for the Poland Border Guard said.
In recent weeks, Lithuania has also reported a surge in border crossings from Belarus and said Minsk was flying in migrants from abroad and dispatching them into the EU.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Thursday accused Lithuania and Poland of fuelling the migrant issue on the border.
In the statement, Poland and Lithuania appealed to the European Commission, Frontex, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), other EU member states, and partners outside the EU for political and practical support and called to strengthen EU migration and asylum policy.
“We firmly believe that the protection of external Schengen borders is not just the duty of individual member states but also the common responsibility of the EU,” the statement says.
EU calls meeting
EU home affairs ministers and representatives of the EU border agency Frontex and Europol are set to discuss the issue next week.
Slovenia, which holds the EU rotating presidency, said the talks would take place by video conference on August 18, under a crisis response mechanism.
Invited are the home affairs ministers from the 27 member states as well as representatives of the Frontex border guard agency, EASO and Europol.
“With the situation at the Lithuania-Belarus border, the EU has come under a serious security threat and is a witness of state-sponsored weaponisation of illegal migration in Belarus,” a spokesman for the Slovenian EU presidency said.