Lithuania has accused neighbouring Belarus of using new tactics to lead migrants to the border. According to Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite, authorities in Belarus are allegedly encouraging migrants to travel barefoot to the border in cold weather to put pressure on Lithuanian border guards.
Small tent camps have been set up on the Belarusian side to accommodate migrants who want to cross the border illegally, the minister said. The migrants do receive an aid package of food, clothing and shoes from Lithuania's Border Guard, but “the fact that they arrive barefoot is not a reason to let them in,” Bilotaite stated.
According to the Border Guard, nine migrants have already been hospitalised due to their health condition, and more and more are arriving barefoot or scantily clad.
More than 10,000 migrants have been stopped at the border since January, according to official data.
Lithuania itself has come under fire on several occasions for its strict treatment of migrants. The country has a 680-kilometre border with Belarus.
In late summer and autumn 2021, the situation escalated when thousands of people tried to enter the EU illegally, including through Lithuania and Poland.
Europe accused Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko of bringing the migrants to the EU’s border in an organised manner.