Third migrant loses leg to frostbite at Lithuania-Belarus border: Reports

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By Joshua Askew
Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, A migrant stands by the fence at the at the newly built refugee camp near Vilnius, Lithuania.
Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, A migrant stands by the fence at the at the newly built refugee camp near Vilnius, Lithuania.   -  Copyright  Mindaugas Kulbis/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved.

Another migrant has lost their leg to frostbite after being pushed across the Lithuanian border from Belarus, according to Lithuania's public broadcaster. 

An Egyptian national had to have his leg amputated at a hospital in Lithuania on Thursday because of prolonged exposure to wet and cold conditions, LRT reported on Friday. 

This is the third case this year, with two Sri Lankan men reportedly losing their legs to frostbite last month after being trapped in A sub-zero no-man's land between Belarus and Lithuania. 

Amid a geo-political spat between the two that started in 2021, Lithuania has accused Belarus of pushing migrants across the border -- at times barefoot -- in an attempt to exert pressure on the country. 

Lithuania, for its part, has been accused of pushing the migrants -- who are predominantly from the Middle East and South East Asia -- back into Belarussian territory, in a situation likened to ping pong. 

This created a humanitarian crisis on the borders of the two countries, with men, women and children camped out in freezing conditions in limbo, with neither country taking responsibility. 

“Two Egyptians are currently in hospital," Red Cross spokesperson Luka Lesauskaitė was quoted as saying by LRT. 

"One man is in a very difficult situation, he is in great shock. The doctors told him that part of his leg had to be removed, and he was very resistant, he did not want to do it,” she added. 

It is not clear if there are other migrants in serious condition on the border, with the Lesauskaitė saying her humanitarian organisation did not have this information. 

She said the Red Cross is informed about migrants with health problems when they apply for aslyum. 

According to the Lithuanian border guard, migrants were taken to hospital 30 times between July and December, while a medic was called 40 times to assist them on the spot. 

Lithuanian Interior Minster Agne Bilotaitė told reporters in November that Belarus was sending migrants across the border without shoes and winter clothes. 

But she added this would not be grounds to grant these individuals asylum. 

The EU has accused Minsk of engineering a crisis on the bloc's eastern border in retaliation for EU sanctions slapped on Belarus after it intercepted a passenger plane bound for Lithuania carrying a Belarussian opposition activist.  

Lithuanian border forces have been accused of repeatedly pushing back migrants trying to cross its border with Belarus, often violently.

Once on the other side, Belarussian authorities typically force them back again. Videos circulating online show them cutting holes in Lithuania's border fence and channelling migrants through certain points. 

Lithuania is not the only country grappling with Belarus's instrumentalisation of migration. Latvia and Poland have had migrants pushed into their borders as well by MInsk. 

Several migrants have died in Poland and Belarus, though no deaths have been recorded in the Baltic states.