The tough measures must start now.
Since the beginning of 2021, 1,232 illegal migrants have been detained on the border with Lithuania - 15 times more than in the entire 2020.
The website Chater97.org spoke with the chief analyst of the Vilnius Institute for Political Analysis Marius Laurinavičius about the smuggling that takes place every day to Lithuania through the Belarusian border.
- How do you assess the actions of the Lukashenka regime on smuggling illegal migrants to Lithuania?
- This is a hybrid war, revenge for the position of Lithuania against the Lukashenka regime.
- In recent months, Lithuania has had problems with illegal migrants from Belarus, but Poland or Latvia have not. Just yesterday, Polish border guards detained 40 Afghans who illegally crossed into Poland. How far can the regime in Belarus go in its actions if it is not stopped? Which countries may still face this problem?
- Nothing is impossible for the Lukashenka regime; there are no red lines, simply because the Putin regime is behind him. Even if technically the regime itself cannot “provide” thousands of illegal migrants for its neighbors, the Putin regime is capable of “providing” thousands. There are no countries that would be protected from such a criminal regime.
I believe that we need to call a spade a spade: and human smuggling is an international crime. Not a single neighbor of Belarus is immune from such criminal activities of the Lukashenka regime. As long as it exists, all neighbors will be in danger. Moreover, the regime is already spreading its criminal activities throughout Europe through the smuggling of cigarettes.
Lukashenka himself publicly announced that he would open the flow of drugs to the EU countries. So all the criminal activities of this regime will be used for the hybrid war that Lukashenka is waging.
- There was also news that Estonia is sending aid to Lithuania to protect the border with Belarus, and the Minister of Internal Affairs of Lithuania Agne Bilotaite said that the country is considering the possibility of building a wall around the border with Belarus. How else can you secure your borders?
- There are technical means, which I do not know whether to discuss because it is a matter of experts. One has to understand that there are physical barriers, as well as all modern technologies have to be applied. If we talk politically, we have to fight the criminal regime itself. I have already said that as long as the criminal Lukashenka regime continues to exist, at least all of Europe will face problems.
- In addition to illegal migrants, smuggling is also growing, which is often equated with the state business of Belarus. Do you think the EU should increase pressure on the Belarusian regime for such behavior?
- Of course, it should, but we must recognize that the latest sanctions have shown the lack of political will in the EU to seriously fight the regime. The EU sectoral sanctions show that today, not in a year or two, tough restrictions do not apply to the Lukashenko regime, because all the signed treaties have not yet expired. Potash fertilizers still go through Lithuania, and the Lithuanian port or railroad is used. The same happens with oil deliveries to the Netherlands or some other country. As of today, there are no de facto serious sectoral sanctions. This needs to be corrected.
- In your opinion, what sanctions should the EU impose in order to show the Lukashenka regime that such behavior is unacceptable?
- It's not for the sake of punishment or to show. We must fight the regime like a terrorist, a criminal. It does not matter here whether a certain regime, for example, Lukashenka or some group, is the culprit. When someone is fighting criminals and terrorists, the first thing to do is to cut them off from funding. In the meantime, we ourselves buy various goods from Belarus, that is, we ourselves finance the Lukashenka regime. When this stops, and we completely stop funding, then we can say that we are fighting or at least increasing the cost of maintaining this criminal regime.
This has not happened yet because the sanctions will take effect in a year or two. Therefore, more serious measures are needed.