August 2022 Newsletter Newsletter

Lithuania: Forced Out or Locked Up – Refugees and Migrants Abused and Abandoned

Between November 2021 and May 2022, AI conducted dozens of interviews with refugees and migrants in Lithuania who had attempted to enter from Belarus. In March 2022, a delegation from AI also travelled to Lithuania. They visited two detention centres, conducted interviews with detainees, spoke with relevant authorities and representatives of humanitarian and civil society organisations, and documented the impact of Lithuania’s actions on thousands of people. 

This report presents their findings: the disparate treatment suffered by refugees and migrants at the hands of Lithuanian border guards, the public security service, detention centre staff, lawyers, and other state and European actors. The human rights violations include violent pushbacks; torture and other ill-treatment, including sexual violence and humiliation; excessive use of force, including by deploying dogs; arbitrary detention in appalling conditions; denial of access to asylum; lack of effective legal aid in sham asylum procedures; and a near total lack of access to justice. 

The Lithuanian authorities used national security narratives to justify preventing people from entering Lithuania to seek asylum. By perpetrating systematic human rights violations through ‘push-back or lock up’ legislation, policies and practices, Lithuania has breached EU law. However, it has been lauded by the EU for holding the line on migration, calling into question the responsibility of EU bodies, in particular the European Border and Coast Guard (Frontex) and the European Commission. The former has provided assistance to Lithuania in ways that may have facilitated the commission of human rights violations. The latter has forfeited its role of guardian of the Union’s Treaties by choosing political expediency over the duty to ensure compliance with EU legislation. 

AI argues that the EU must take immediate action to hold Lithuania accountable and to help correct these practices by: restoring immediately the liberty of people still arbitrarily detained; suspending returns and readmitting those unlawfully removed; ensuring access to fair and effective procedures to all those wishing to seek asylum, including re-opening the cases of asylum-seekers whose applications were unfairly rejected; providing compensation and physical and psychological rehabilitation to those who suffered torture, ill-treatment and other harm; ensuring that people in detention, including women, children and LGBTQ+ persons, are protected from gender-based violence and receive the care they require if subjected to sexual assault or humiliation; initiating immediately impartial and thorough investigations into the abuse of people in detention and at the border, as well as of violations of due process in asylum and migration proceedings; immediately repealing all legislation adopted in 2021-2022 that derogated from human rights obligations; and providing an effective remedy to all persons who suffered human rights violations at the hands of Lithuania. To read the full report, go to https://bit.ly/3JqUC4c

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