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10 Aug, 2021 13:05

EU hopes suspension of Baghdad-Minsk flights will stem migrant flow to Lithuania as Vilnius debates giant border fence

EU hopes suspension of Baghdad-Minsk flights will stem migrant flow to Lithuania as Vilnius debates giant border fence

The EU has said it hopes that the suspension of flights between Baghdad and Minsk will slow the movement of migrants across the border between Belarus and Lithuania, amid record illegal crossings into the EU state.

On Tuesday, the European Commission praised the “constructive attitude” of its Iraqi partners after parties agreed to suspend flights between Baghdad to Minsk in an effort to reduce illegal migration into the EU via Belarus. 

Our “Iraqi partners are aware how important this issue is for the EU and we hope that the situation will stabilize when it comes to the flights between Baghdad and Minsk,” a spokesman for the European Commission told reporters.

The decision comes amid record illegal migration from Belarus into Lithuania. As of August 3, some 4,026 individuals had illegally crossed into the country of 2.8 million people, compared with just 74 in all of 2020. 

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On Tuesday, the Lithuanian parliament started a debate on whether to build a four-meter-high (13ft 1in) razor wire-topped metal fence on 508 km (316 miles) on the border with Belarus. The Baltic News Service agency reported a potential cost of €152 million ($178 million) if approved.

Lithuania’s parliament is also debating whether to allow the military to patrol the border and whether to restrict asylum applications to checkpoints on the border and embassies. Currently, only border guards are permitted to patrol the 670km border with Belarus.

According to the Lithuanian State Border Guard Service, most of the migrants come from Iraq, followed by the Republic of Congo, and Cameroon. Other Eastern European nations have also reported increased illegal migration, including Poland, which claimed Minsk was using the migrants to pressure EU states following the imposition of sanctions by Brussels.

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