VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — The Czech Republic pledged on Tuesday 530,000 euros to Lithuania to secure the its border with Belarus in the wake of thousands of migrants crossing over from the former Soviet republic.
Lithuania, a European Union member country that sits on the 27 nation bloc's northeastern border, has faced an influx of mostly Iraqi migrants in the past few months streaming from neighboring Belarus.
It has accused the government of Belarus’ authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko of encouraging the migrant flow in retaliation for EU sanctions against his country following the diversion of a passenger plane to arrest a dissident journalist aboard.
Lithuanian Interior minister Agne Bilotaite and Czech foreign minister Jakub Kulhanek signed a document that's expected to expedite construction of the fence along the border with Belarus.
“Lukashenko continues to weaponize illegal migration as a means to blackmail Lithuania and by extension, the EU,” said Kulhanek. “He has to be stopped.”
The move comes after Lithuania asked fellow EU countries and the bloc's border agency Frontex for assistance.
In August, the EU Commission pledged 12 million euros to Lithuania, and neighboring Estonia while Ukraine has sent hundreds of kilometers of barbed wire to the country.
Denmark has offered to sell 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) of barbed wire “to strengthen the Lithuanian border efforts along the Belarus border,” Danish Immigration Minister Mattias Tesfaye told the Danish Parliament. Denmark also offered housing containers, immigration experts and sanitation equipment to the Baltic country.
Lithuania, a nation of less than 3 million people, has no physical barriers on its 679-kilometer (420-mile) long border with Belarus. More than 4,100 migrants, most of them from Iraq, have crossed this year from Belarus into Lithuania. Thousands have been turned away at the border after Lithuania decided to actively prevent new entries in August. Some of them already returned to Iraq after receiving payments for the journey from the government.
Follow AP’s global migration coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/migration