VILNIUS, July 9 (Reuters) – Lithuania began building a 550km shaving barrier on the border with Belarus on Friday after accusing Belarusian authorities of flying immigrants from abroad to send illegally to the EU.
The government said the military-style wire spool would cost 4.9 million euros ($ 5.81
At a later date, the barrier will be reinforced with a high two-meter (6.5-foot) border fence topped by shaving cable that will cost an additional 41 million euros, the Interior Ministry said.
Hundreds of migrants have crossed from Belarus in recent days, most of them Iraqi citizens, Lithuania has said.
Belarus decided in May to allow migrants to enter Lithuania in retaliation for sanctions imposed by the bloc after Minsk forced a Ryanair flight to land on its land and arrested a dissident blogger on board.
If anyone thinks we will close our border with Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Ukraine and become a stop for those running from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Tunis and further down in Africa – if anyone believes that he is, to put it mildly, misled, “said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Tuesday.
Belarus now protects the border only as much as it is “profitable” for it, and as much as it can economically, the president said.
Lithuania responded on Wednesday by announcing that it would lay the border barrier and deploy troops to prevent migrants crossing illegally into its territory. Read more
In a related move, Lithuania’s parliament will meet on Tuesday to pass legislation as soon as possible that streamlines notifications of asylum applications, including shortening their initial review to no more than 10 days, Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said.
All people crossing the border illegally were kept locked up, the draft law says, meaning an end to occasional short trips outside detention that are currently allowed.
Just over 1,500 people crossed the border illegally from Belarus this year, 900 of whom crossed the first nine days in July.
The first stretch of the new barrier, which is to be completed on Friday, runs 500 meters in length and measures 1.8 meters in height, Army Defense Chiefs spokeswoman Ruta Montvile told Reuters.
Simonyte told the national television station that she did not expect the flow of migrants from Belarus alone to decrease.
“Since the Belarus regime earns money from these people for visa fees and in my opinion also receives other income from them – it would be difficult to expect any positive trend without further mechanisms of action,” she said.
Simonyte said on Wednesday that Belarus had offered migrants flights to Minsk, citing documents found on at least one immigrant who had reached Lithuania. read more She said the largest airport from which people flew to Belarus was Baghdad, and her foreign minister said people also came to Turkey.
The border between Lithuania and Belarus is 679 km long. About 78 km (48 miles) were fenced in previous years, and approx. 258 km (160 miles) are monitored electronically, according to the Interior Ministry.
($ 1 = 0.8433 euros)
Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius Editing by Mark Heinrich, William Maclean
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