Lithuanian authorities say migrants continue to pour into the Baltic state across its border with Belarus, a situation it says Minsk is purposely organizing in retaliation for the West's sanctions imposed on authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka for his ongoing crackdown on pro-democracy activists and opposition politicians.
The Lithuanian State Border Security Service said in a statement on July 2 that 150 immigrants had been apprehended while trying to illegally cross the Belarusian-Lithuanian border in the previous 24 hours, almost twice the number detained along the border for all of 2020.
The total number of detained illegal immigrants, mainly from Iraq, who illegally entered Lithuania from Belarus since January now stands at 822, the statement added.
Vilnius contends that the migrants are moved to the border with Lithuania, where Belarusian border guards turn a blind eye as they cross into the European Union member state.
Lithuania has been one of the loudest critics of Lukashenka and advocates for his opponents since Belarus was thrown into turmoil last August when the 66-year-old strongman claimed a sixth presidential term in an election that many voters believe was rigged in his favor, setting off unprecedented protests. The Baltic state has offered refuge to Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who supporters say was the real winner of the vote, and to many others targeted in a violent crackdown. Vilnius has become a center for Belarusians in exile, and the two countries have expelled a number of diplomats as ties have worsened in recent weeks. Vilnius has requested aid from the EU's border guard service, Frontex, due to the influx of migrants.