VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — Lithuania is seeking up to 120 million euros in compensation from Belarus, accusing its eastern neighbor of orchestrating the immigration of thousands of people, mainly from Africa and the Middle East.
Since 2021, when the European Union imposed sanctions on Belarus and its longtime authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, the number of people seeking to cross into Lithuania and enter the EU has dramatically increased.
The foreign ministry said Thursday it has handed over a diplomatic note to Belarus, demanding compensation. Justice Minister Ewelina Dobrowolska said Wednesday that “what the Belarusian regime is doing is not a natural migration route.”
Lithuania erected a barbed wire fence along its 679-kilometer (422-mile) border with Belarus after thousands of migrants crossed into its territory in 2021.
Since mid-2021, Lithuania has refused entry to a total of 20,000 migrants from Belarus. In August 2021, Lithuanian border guards were given the right by the government in Vilnius to turn away migrants.
The 120 million euros is to cover expenses that Lithuania “suffered not only by keeping migrants, but also by strengthening our border control, infrastructure that we did not have,” Dobrowolska told reporters.