"So that people can survive": Lithuanians pack food and clothes for migrants expelled from their country | Reuters

2021-12-16 07:35:13 By : Ms. Mei-Jeng Cheng

Reuters Mikune, Lithuania, November 18-Five volunteers in a garage near the capital of Lithuania are putting matches, hand and foot warmers, cups and spoons into plastic bags and distributing them to immigrants who will be rejected by their country Enter Belarus.

"This will not change the plight of immigrants, but it is the best thing I can do. So I will try to help," said Domantas Zekas, who works in boxes of food, clothes and other supplies. The items are packed by anyone and appear on the day.

Last week, about 6,000 packages of food — canned beef, beans and corn, instant noodles and biscuits — were assembled by volunteers working in shifts.

Food is provided by organizations such as the Red Cross, the International Organization for Migration and Caritas, and is packaged in cooperation with Lithuanian border guards, who provide garages and hand the bags to guards patrolling the border.

These guards are happy to have the opportunity to distribute them to people who are recovering from cold and hungry in Belarus.

"The immigrants are really happy. They are happy to accept charity, say'thank you Lithuanians', and applaud. This motivates us," Darius Skanulis, head of the Vilnius Regional Border Guard (Darius Skarnulis) said.

Ignas Subacius, a volunteer at the Lithuanian Border Guard headquarters, cuts burning sticks for immigrants entering from Belarus before they are driven out of Mikuna, Lithuania. The picture was taken on November 17, 2021. REUTERS/Janis Laizans

This year, more than 4,000 migrants from the Middle East and Africa entered Lithuania, and many more have been at the border after flying to Belarus. The European Union described this as a crisis orchestrated by its government to retaliate against EU sanctions. Belarus called the accusation absurd.

Since the beginning of August, Lithuania has pushed around 7,000 people back to the border, which stretches along sparsely populated woods and swamps; activists say this sometimes puts vulnerable groups in a desperate situation.

More than 160 migrants are allowed to enter on humanitarian grounds, which Lithuania defines as "a real danger to health and life". Legislator Thomas Tomlinas told Reuters that the decision to grant access was made by patrol officers, who set vague guidelines without the involvement of humanitarian or child rights organizations.

Tomlinas said that an Iraqi family with four children under the age of 10 was detained in Lithuania near Belarus in freezing rain and sleet on November 6, and was sent back the next morning.

Border Guard spokesperson Rokas Pukinskas said people are fed and allowed to warm up, and if they can support asylum applications, they can apply to stay. But he said they could not enter because they had children.

The volunteers who packed up aid in the garage did not discuss what happened in the forest.

Caritas coordinator Vaida Martuseviciute said: “We did not participate in the boycott and did not cause this situation. We can at least deal with humanitarian issues so that people can survive”.

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