Staunton, July 2 – Over the last few months, Minsk has been flooding Lithuania with illegal immigrants from the Middle East as Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s hybrid retaliation for Vilnius’ support of the Belarusian opposition (jamestown.org/program/minsk-flooding-lithuania-with-illegal-migrants-from-middle-east/).
The immigrants fly from Baghdad or Istanbul to Minsk and then with the assistance of the Belarusian government travel overland to the Lithuanian border where they avoid border posts and cross into that European Union posing a challenge to its government and hoping to travel on to other EU countries posing challenges to them.
Now the problem has become so large that the Lithuanian government has declared a state of emergency in the border region, dispatched diplomats to discuss the issue in Turkey and Syria, and enlisted military assistance from three NATO countries (France, Germany and Hungary) (m.delfi.lt/ru/news/article.php?id=87622217, hdelfi.lt/ru/news/politics/glava-mid-dlya-resheniya-voprosa-nelegalnoj-migracii-soglasuyutsya-vizity-v-ankaru-i-bagdad.d?id=87603581 and pasienis.lt/lit/Pasienyje-su-baltarusija-patruliavima-prades-frontex-pareigunai-foto).
In the past 24 hours, 150 such migrants were caught coming into Lithuania, the highest one-day total so far, with the total number now approaching 1000, a small number perhaps for a large country but an enormous one for Lithuania and an indication that Lukashenka feels unconstrained by international law.
Lithuanians view these migrants not simply as a burden, however, but also as a potential security threat, with one Lithuanian economist, Raimondas Kuodis, even proposing to jail them as the equivalent of Russia’s “little green men” who were behind the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea (https://www.delfi.lt/ru/news/live/ekonomist-predlagaet-radikalnoe-reshenie-voprosa-migrantov-priravnyat-ih-zelenym-chelovechkam-i-v-tyurmu.d?id=87617443).
“I propose a simple solution to the problems of illegal immigration from Belarus which seems to me would be effective,” he says. “These migrants represent part of a diversionary plan of that country. They are thus not economic migrants, although we have been treating them as poor refugees whom it is necessary to take in and feed.”
But in fact, these are a group of people organized by the Belarusian government to destabilize Lithuania; and they should be treated as such. They should be labelled for what they are “little green men,” Kuodas continues; and they should be incarcerated and as soon as possible expelled.
The Lithuanian government is unlikely to accept his argument; but it is clear that both Vilnius and other NATO capitals see what Lukashenka is doing in this regard as a security threat. That will further degrade the already abysmally low standing of the Belarusian leader in them and may trigger even harsher steps than they have taken already.