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Lithuania extends state of emergency at Belarus border - Metro US

Lithuania extends state of emergency at Belarus border

Lithuania builds four-meter-high fence on Belarusian border

VILNIUS (Reuters) – Lithuania’s parliament on Tuesday extended a state of emergency at the country’s border with Belarus and at camps hosting migrants who arrived from there until Jan. 15.

EU member states accuse Belarus of encouraging illegal migrants from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa to cross the border into the EU in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Minsk over human rights abuses.

The state of emergency, in place since Nov. 9 when hundreds of migrants set up camps along Belarus border with Poland, allows border guards to use “mental coercion” and “proportional physical violence” to prevent migrants from entering Lithuania.

Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte told parliament the numbers of migrants trying to cross the border has now decreased.

The Lithuanian Interior Ministry said last week that about 10,000 illegal migrants were in Belarus. Until they are returned to their countries of origin, there was a risk that they could be sent towards Lithuania, it said.

Lithuania’s declaration allows border guard to ban all travel to within 10 km (six miles) of the Belarus border. Mobile phones could be taken away from migrants and public gatherings near the border and in the camps could be forbidden.

The government on Tuesday dropped its proposal to a declare state of emergency at Lithuanian border with Poland, to stop smugglers ferrying the migrants to Germany via Poland, after push back from lawmakers who called the measure excessive.

(Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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