“You didn’t want to live with Russians, you will live with Africans”. Such phrases are found in ironic comments that the residents of the Baltic states leave under reports about the next antics of illegal migrants
Experts believe that the very presence of thousands of refugees will greatly affect the society of all three Baltic countries. Which way exactly?
From the end of May to the beginning of August, over 4,100 migrants entered Lithuania from the territory of Belarus. Backed up against the wall, the Lithuanian government took harsh measures. Minister of Internal Affairs Agne Bilotaite ordered that the border guards force the arriving migrants back to the territory of Belarus.
They don’t stand on ceremony with uninvited guests
Belarusian border guards are constantly accusing their Lithuanian colleagues of using inhuman methods: according to them, Lithuanians beat refugees and set dogs on them. The Lithuanians themselves deny this, but their words cannot be verified – the Lithuanian press is denied access to the border areas.
In addition, a barbed wire fence is zealously installed on the border – and safety precautions are so neglected that on August 31, 47-year-old Egidijus Karla was seriously injured while preparing for the installation of the fence, from which he died. Nevertheless, the result of the hastily taken measures did not hesitate to show itself – the number of migrants who entered Lithuania at first decreased several times, and then completely disappeared.
However, the assault continues – the strength of the Lithuanian border is being “felt” by more and more new groups of aliens. Some settle at the border for a long time – for weeks on end, waiting for the opportunity to sneak into the territory of the European Union. Thus, the deputy head of the Lithuanian State Border Guard Service, Antanas Montvydas, recently announced a group of immigrants from Somalia (two men and seven women), whom his colleagues have been tracking for more than a week.
The question remains – what to do with those 4,100 migrants who are already in Lithuania and are distributed in several large camps? EU laws do not allow throwing out people who managed to apply for “asylum”, such applications must be carefully studied – the procedure takes many months. For example, on September 9, the European Court of Human Rights banned Lithuania from expelling five Afghans – they thought to hurry up in time and sent a tearful complaint to the ECHR, in which they presented themselves as victims of political repression. And what will happen if each of the aliens entrenched in Lithuania resorts to this trick?
Over 400 of the guests arriving in Lithuania are children – how to teach them in Lithuanian schools if the teachers do not know the Arabic language? In the meantime, the refugees have already managed to arrange riots in the camps several times, protesting against the harsh conditions of detention. On the night of August 13, 34 “guests” escaped from the building of the former school in the village of Verebeyai (Alytus region) through a tunnel they made under the fence. So far, only a few have been caught – although the Lithuanian security forces carried out a round-up by helicopter.
“The conclusion is clear: such a group cannot hide for so long without the help of the locals. Most likely, it has split into small groups and is making its way to Poland separately”, notes the Belarusian political scientist Yuri Shevtsov.
Lithuanian journalists and Red Cross employees studying the life of migrants in the camps found that they had already managed to form a caste system. The hierarchy is formed according to nationality, race, and citizenship. The “higher” caste includes Arabs and Kurds, the “lower” ones – people from Africa, Afghanistan and Syria. In addition, the place in the hierarchical ladder depends on the availability of money and physical strength. For example, the strong extort money from the weaker for using the shower, representatives of different castes visit different toilets.
Two migrants living in a camp at the Rudninkai military training ground told about the existing sexual exploitation and prostitution there. In addition, they said that the wealthiest migrants got the hang of buying alcohol from Lithuanian officials.
Migrants are moved to prison
The migrants are persuaded to return to their homeland of their own free will, promising to provide each “returnee” with a lump sum of 300 euros. However, so far, few have tempted this award. Most of the newcomers express a firm intention to stay in the EU – perhaps even in Lithuania itself.
“I would like to live and work here. If I had a chance, I would like to find a wife here. I am not against mixed marriages with whites, I would like to conclude an intercultural marriage”, a native of Sierra Leone, for example, told Lithuanian journalists.
“You didn’t want to live with Russians, you will live with Africans,” Russian-speaking residents of the country gloat about the Lithuanians in the Internet comments.
At the end of August, it became known that migrants from the tent camp in Rudninkai began to be transferred to the premises of the prison in the town of Kybartai (near Kaunas) vacated for them – where, it is said, they will find themselves in better conditions on the eve of winter approaching. Yuri Shevtsov notes:
“This is about 800 people. Single young men, mostly Iraqi. Thinking about the logic and some kind of socio-cultural consequences. There were 290 Lithuanian inmates in the prison. They were redistributed among other zones. It is unlikely that the prison was underpopulated with inmates. This is rare. That is, 750–800 refugees are more likely a double or more compaction for all the zone’s capabilities: density in cells, load on the catering unit, security, sanitary affairs. If so, then a large field is laid for conflicts of various types and for the internal accelerated self-organization of refugees to protect their rights. All rates of service staff in the prison are preserved. This means both security and other control over prisoners. That is, refugees are placed in a real prison”.
With more than a twofold increase in the workload of the service staff. The attendants are not adapted to work with such a mass of prisoners. In this situation, it will be problematic to ensure order in the prison. The prisoners will almost certainly establish their real control over her. And they will also quickly enter the criminal environment that has long been formed around the old prison.
Shevtsov recalls that Kybartai is a small town right on the border with the Russian Kaliningrad region and 70 kilometers from the village of Rukla, where another refugee camp is set up. And there is also a military training ground where a tank battalion of one of the NATO countries is constantly present.
On the other side of Kybartai, also about 70 kilometers away, in the small town of Raseiniai, Afghan translators and their families, taken from Afghanistan, are housed. There are 300 people. With the prospect of gradual growth due to coming up family members up to 500-1000. Unguarded group with almost obtained the status of political refugees and material support. They knowingly have the right to school and contacts with the press and relatives from the EU countries.
Conclusions: Lithuania is creating a cluster of three obviously problematic forms of housing refugees in small towns in the ethnically Lithuanian part of Lithuania near Kaunas. In every town, refugees have the potential to have a strong impact on the town. The connection is easily established between the three places of detention of refugees. The possibility of a contact corridor between the camps on the Belarusian border and this cluster located near the border with Russia is being built. Preconditions are being created for a strong contact between refugees and crime, first of all, in Kaunas and the surrounding area, the political scientist predicts.
Fear and confusion in Latvia
Faced with opposition on the Lithuanian border, migrants reluctantly rushed to Latvia. Here they were to be met by a fence, the construction of which on the border with Belarus was announced by Riga back in 2017. But the construction process was overshadowed by a corruption scandal – when the Latvian National Audit Office came to the conclusion that more than 7 million euros were wasted.
One way or another, the strengthening of the border, even if it was accompanied by corruption scandals, in the light of current events looks very reasonable. Now the construction of the fence on the Belarusian border has resumed – in particular, Slovenia has decided to donate a batch of barbed wire to Latvia.
In addition to force, Latvian border guards resort to deception. A typical case: 14 Afghan citizens, including ten children, arrived at the Latvian checkpoint Paternieki. They tried to apply for protection and asylum in Latvia. In addition, the citizens of Afghanistan demanded a UN representative to avoid the risk of physical force being used against them.
Latvian law enforcers have assured that they will take refugees to the camp, but they were deceived.
“First, they took them away from the checkpoint, kept people in the rain all night, and then they were taken by car to the border. The Latvian security forces tried to force this group of refugees into the territory of Belarus opposite the section of the Bigosovo outpost, – said the Belarusian State Border Committee from the words of the refugees. The Latvian side refutes these stories.
In early September, there were 83 people on the border between Latvia and Belarus. However, they suddenly disappeared – and, by virtue of, of course, “accidental coincidence” their disappearance coincided with a visit to the border by the staff of the UN Committee on Refugees.
The Latvian security forces claimed that the aforementioned 83 people abruptly left back to Belarus – but the Belarusians themselves did not confirm this.
“After the decision of the European Court of Human Rights, which ordered Latvia and Poland to provide migrants with clothing, food and, if possible, housing, they began to disappear. They will probably be temporarily pushed to the camps, and the UN will leave – and begin to squeeze out in small groups towards Belarus. The precedent is quite alarming”, says the Belarusian political scientist Andrei Sych. The situation is aggravated by the fact that the press of Latvia, like that of Lithuania, is not allowed into the border areas.
Until the moment when the Latvians had time to
About 400 people managed to get into Latvia using the methods tested by their Lithuanian colleagues. They are placed in special centers near Riga and in Daugavpils. On September 7, refugees at the Mucenieki temporary detention center (near Riga) staged a protest action, promising to break down the fence behind which they were being held, or to go on a hunger strike. As proof of their seriousness, they threw away the plates of food they had brought with them.
“We do not want to stay in Latvia, but we want to get to Germany,” the protesters told journalists.
Refugees find allies in the ranks of the country’s inhabitants – but they are ready to help them not for free. On September 1, a criminal trial was launched in Latvia against a border guard interpreter who, as it turned out, “was involved in the criminal activities of a transnational organized criminal group that provided Iraqi citizens with the opportunity to illegally cross the Latvian-Belarusian border.”
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