© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte speaks to the media while visiting the Lithuanian border guard school in Dubiciai, Lithuania, on June 15, 2021. REUTERS / Ints Kalnins
By Andrius Sytas
VILNIUS (Reuters) – Lithuania on Wednesday accused Belarus of transporting migrants by plane and said it would build a barrier at the border to prevent them from crossing illegally into its territory.
Belarus decided to allow migrants to cross into Lithuania in response to European Union sanctions imposed after Minsk forced a Ryanair flight to land on its territory and arrested a dissident blogger on board.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said Belarus has been offering flights to migrants to Minsk, citing evidence found in at least one migrant who had arrived in Lithuania.
“There are travel agencies, direct flights that connect Minsk to Baghdad, for example, and there are agencies both in Belarus and in other countries that operate and attract tourists to Minsk,” Simonyte told Reuters.
He said that the main airport from which people flew to Belarus was Baghdad, but he did not rule out that people would also arrive from Istanbul.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on May 26 that his country would no longer prevent migrants from crossing its western border into the EU.
Simonyte said that Lithuania will take measures to prevent migrants from crossing the border by increasing patrols and building a barrier.
“We will start to build an additional physical barrier, dividing Lithuania and Belarus, which would be a sure sign and a certain deterrent for the organizers of illegal migratory flows,” he told a press conference.
He also said the country, a member of the Schengen free travel area, was considering imposing border controls with neighboring EU countries to prevent migrants from traveling from there to western EU countries.
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