VILNIUS, November 22. /TASS/. Illegal migrants from Asia and Africa who are attempting to get into Lithuania from neighboring Belarus have changed their tactics trying to cross the border in small groups, Commander of the State Border Guard Service, General Rustamas Liubajevas told the LRT national radio station on Monday.
"A change in strategy was noted with agents from Belarusian security forces pushing small - [numbering] three-five people - groups of migrants to the border that are more difficult to detect and turn back to Belarus," he said.
Since the onset of the migrant crisis, with its pinnacle in May and over the summer, groups of migrants attempting to cross the border have numbered from several dozen to one hundred people.
Over the past 24 hours, Lithuanian border guards, and the military assisting them, have prevented 70 migrants from illicitly crossing the border. Two individuals were allowed into Lithuania for humanitarian purposes. Those were Belarusian citizens who asked for political asylum. Lately, there were no Belarusians among the migrants.
Since the beginning of 2021, over 4,000 illegal migrants have been detained on the Lithuanian-Belarusian border which is 50 times more than last year’s figures. Vilnius insists that the migrant crisis was provoked by Minsk and has labelled it a hybrid attack against Lithuania for its political backing of the Belarusian opposition. Since August, Lithuania’s power structures have been turning the migrants attempting to cross the border back to Belarus. Afterwards, they began their attempts to get into the EU via Latvia and Poland.
The situation quickly unraveled on November 8, as several thousand refugees approached the Polish border from Belarus and refused to leave the area, breaking down a barbed wire fence and attempting to cross into Poland. EU countries have accused Minsk of intentionally escalating the crisis and have called for sanctions. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko stated that the Western countries themselves were to blame for this quagmire since these people were fleeing war in their homelands because of the West’s belligerent policies.