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Lithuania pays migrants €1,000 to return to Iraq

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By Joao Vitor Da Silva Marques
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Lithuania pays migrants €1,000 to return to Iraq
Copyright  AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis, File

The largest group of migrants to break through the Lithuanian-Belarusian border at the height of the latest migrant crisis has been returned to Baghdad.

98 Iraqis were offered a one-time payment of €1,000 to board the flight.

According to the Lithuanian Ministry of Internal Affairs, all went voluntarily.

"We estimate how much it costs for us one migrant,” said Agnè Bilotaite, Lithuanian Minister of the Interior. “The basic cost of maintaining one migrant is €11,000 per year. It is obviously much more profitable for us to offer a benefit, buy a ticket or arrange a flight and thus have fewer challenges and other problems."

Since the beginning of the migration crisis, Vilnius has expelled more than 500 migrants who arrived via Belarus. 

Over 3,000 remain in Lithuanian refugee centres.

"We need to start thinking what we will do when the term in refugee centres will be over,” said Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius, the chairman of the Lithuanian parliamentary committee for human rights. “To talk about integration. Otherwise, they will try to reach other European countries."

Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, followed by the EU, the US and other western countries accused the government of Alexander Lukashenko of using illegal migrants to solve political problems. 

Minsk and Moscow blame Europe for the crisis and for the fate of refugees.

According to the Belarus Red Cross, there are about 600 foreigners hoping to get into the EU at a holding centre near the border.