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Amid Belarus migrant row, Lithuania to open new camp for 500 people

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By Reuters
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By Andrius Sytas

VILNIUS – Lithuania will open a new camp to house illegal migrants, the interior minister said on Monday, amid accusations from the Baltic state that Belarus is flying in migrants from abroad to send them illegally into the country.

“This week we will launch a camp in Dieveniskes, fit to house 500 people,” said Interior Minster Agne Bilotaite after a meeting of the Lithuanian leadership to discuss the migration crisis.

The camp will be based around a disused school building and would be expanded later by building tents or temporary housing in the surrounding area, the minister’s spokeswoman told Reuters.

It will be situated in a pocket of Lithuanian territory almost completely surrounded by Belarus, connected to the rest of the country by a 2.5km wide isthmus.

“The remoteness makes it is easier to ensure safety of people and the migrants”, the spokeswoman, Lina Laurinaityte, said.

Some 1676 migrants have entered country illegally from Belarus this year, of these 1057 in July, according to Lithuania’s border guard service. Around half of the migrants are Iraqi citizens.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis on Monday suggested the migrants were being used as a means of pressure on the EU, which has imposed a series of sanctions on Belarus since a disputed presidential election.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said his country is now only guarding the border as much as it is “profitable” to it, and as much as it can afford.

Lithuania’s main detention centre for migrants, in Pabrade, is full, and the migrants are being temporarily housed in sites scattered near the border area.

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