5 Apr 2023 18:37

Lithuania hopes to recover 120 mln euros from Belarus for migrant crisis

VILNIUS. April 5 (Interfax/BNS) - Lithuania will try to sue Belarus for at least 120 million euros for the crisis with illegal migrants who tried to cross the border from Belarus into Lithuania, which began in 2021, Lithuanian Justice Minister Ewelina Dobrowolska said.

"Lithuania will seek compensation for the damage we suffered not only due to the accommodation of migrants, but also because of the need to step up our control, the infrastructure we didn't have. According to tentative estimations, it's at least 120 million euros," Dobrowolska told reporters on Wednesday, adding that the precise damage is still being determined.

"Enough evidence has been collected [...] that the Belarusian regime has not only pushed people into the territory of Lithuania for two years, but it also initiating actions by which migrants can get into the territory of Lithuania," she said.

Lithuania believes that Belarus has breached the Protocol Against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air supplementing the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

The minister said the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday will send a note to Belarus proposing that the dispute be resolved in arbitration. Half a year is planned for these proceedings. If no agreement is reached in this format, the case will go to the International Court.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Lithuanian government approved on its merits the Justice Ministry's proposal to initiate an interstate case against Belarus for illegal smuggling of migrants into the country.

The Justice Ministry can now sign contracts with experts or lawyers in connection with the settlement of this transborder dispute. The costs are expected to be covered with money from "the state reserve or other funds borrowed on behalf of the state."

The total length of the Lithuanian-Belarusian border is 679 km, of which more than 100 km runs through the banks of rivers and lakes.

Almost 4,200 people illegally came from Belarus to Lithuania in 2021. Thousands of foreigners were told to turn back when they tried to cross the border from August 2021. Some of them repeatedly tried to enter Lithuania. Lithuania blames the Belarusian authorities for organizing the flow of migrants and calls it a hybrid attack. By fall 2022, Lithuania built a fence on the border with Belarus, which is more than 500 km long, to protect itself from the migrant flow.