MOSCOW, July 19. /TASS/. Belarus’ State Border Committee said on Monday that Belarusian border guards had detained several illegal migrants from Lithuania who claim to have been forced to cross into Belarus at gunpoint.
"Belarusian border guards have detained three groups of illegal migrants who crossed the border from Lithuania," the State Border Committee said.
According to the committee, 14 migrants were detained in the Grodno region on July 18. Seven more people who said they were Iraqi nationals from a refugee camp in Lithuania were detained the following day. After some time, five more people, including a pregnant woman, were detained.
"According to the Iraqi citizens, Lithuanian border guards summoned them for questioning and tried to compel them to confess to bribing Belarusian border guards to help them cross the border," it said, adding that these people "were denied meals and drinks and were beaten by expandable batons while being questioned," which explains their bodily bruises and scratches. After the interrogation, they said they were "taken to the state border and forced to cross it into Belarus at the point of a gun."
One of the five people detained later in the day also said they were Iraqi nationals. He said they had been stopped by armed people in fatigues in Lithuania, who seized and tore their migrant passports and forcibly expelled them to Belarus.
Over recent months, Lithuania has been reporting a hike in illegal migration from Belarus. The country has reportedly been forced to begin to build a wall along the border. On July 2, an emergency regime was imposed over the migration crisis.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said in late May that his country was a barrier on the drugs and illegal migrant trafficking route to Lithuania, but amid the Western pressure, Minsk might stop performing this function. On May 19, he said groups involved in illegal migration were active in Lithuania.