Lithuania is taking measures to stand with the people of Belarus, their southern neighbor that has been erupting with protests and civil unrest in recent weeks.
According to a press release published by the Lithuanian Ministry of the Interior, the country is prepared for applications from people seeking asylum from Belarus.
“We are closely monitoring the situation in Belarus and have prepared a plan of measures for the possible event of an increase in the number of Belarusian citizens applying for asylum in Lithuania. Persons who will apply for asylum and qualify for refugee status will be granted such asylum in our country,” said Lithuanian Minister of the Interior Rita Tamašunienė.
The measure to allow more asylum seekers from Belarus is one that the Ministry of the Interior has coordinated with the Migration Department, State Border Guard Service, and Police Department.
The measure comes from concern among Lithuanian authorities that have helped Belarusians fleeing their country in the past and serves as a sign that Lithuania will continue to protect them in the future.
“It would not be the first time that the representatives of the Belarusian opposition are seeking asylum in Lithuania. Moreover, if that happens this time, both because of political circumstances and possible other threats, we are ready to help them until they have the opportunity to return home safely,” said Tamašunienė.
Asylum to incoming Belarusians can be given in two forms, according to Lithuanian legislation regarding the issue:
- Refugee status, which is granted to a person fleeing their country for risk of persecution because of his or her race, nationality, religion, membership of a certain group, or their political opinions.
- Subsidiary protection, which is granted to asylum seekers who do not qualify for refugee status but who is still at risk of torture, death, his or her liberty, health, or life as the result of an ongoing war.
Those qualified to enter Lithuania from Belarus are allowed to do so by permission of the Ministry of the Interior. However, Lithuania is still keeping in mind concerns of COVID-19. Entrants will still need to undergo a 14-day quarantine after arrival for asylum.
Lithuania has extended a helping hand to many in the past, including Ukrainians since Russian troops took the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, and Belarusian asylum seekers in past crises.