Migrants stuck in Lithuania speak of dire living conditions: ‘We have no hope’

After the Belarusian policy that attracted thousands of immigrants to the country and gave them hope of crossing into the European Union, neighboring Lithuania received an unprecedented influx of immigrants. The Lithuanian authorities have sent these people to hastily built reception centers, where many remain in limbo, sometimes for months at a time. The migrants, many of whom are from Iraq, are staying under difficult conditions in the centres.

Last summer, thousands of migrants tried to enter the European Union – Poland, Latvia and Lithuania – from neighboring Belarus. Most of them were Iraqis who arrived by plane to the Belarusian capital, Minsk, from Baghdad on tourist visas. On the other hand, many Africans had already been living in Belarus for months or even years, often on student visas, when they tried to cross the border.

At the time, the Belarusian president was accused of masterminding the influx of migrants in retaliation for European sanctions. Inundated by the influx, Lithuania began building a fence on its border. It also opened detention centers to hold arrested immigrants.

Our Observer, an immigrant from French-speaking Africa who spoke to us anonymously, sent us photos and videos of the Medeninkai detention center, located two kilometers from the border with Belarus. He told us that he and other migrants were given little food and few hygiene supplies. They are also subjected to ill-treatment by the guards and forced to go to the consulates of their countries against their will.

>> Read on The Observers: An African immigrant in Lithuania says: ‘I’ve been held for months, as a prisoner’

At the center, we have hygiene issues. Sometimes the color of the water we drink changes. Within three months, we got two bars of soap and shower gel. Since we have been showering here, we have skin problems and itching, and when there is an emergency and we call the police, they do not turn up in time, the meals they give us here are not enough.

We’ve all lost weight and have no energy, and the cold hits us hard. Sometimes the heating system breaks down. We suffer from insomnia and mental health problems since we were locked up for so long. Des sanitaires dans le center de détention de Medininkai, en Lituanie: “Depuis qu’on se lave ici, on a des problèmes de peau, des démangeaisons”, dénonce Tshetshe (pseudonym), l’un de nos Observateurs. © Vidéo envoyée à la rédaction des Observateurs . “Le froid nous frappe, et le système de chauffage est parfois en panne”, raconte Tshetshe (pseudonym), l’un de nos Observateurs, bloqué dans le center de détention Medininkai, en Lituanie.

© Vidéo envoyée à la rédaction des Observateurs . Migrants with border problems, dans le center de détention de Medininkai, en Lituanie: “Ils sont agressifs, ils nous rappellent tout le temps que bivenleus pay les” déplore Tshetshe (pseudonym), l’un de nos Observateurs Dans cette vidéo, on les voit entrer dans l’un des container o dorment les migrants © Vidéo envoyée à la rédaction des Observateurs .

Migrants report problems With border guards at Medininkai detention center.In the video above, they can be seen entering one of the containers in which the migrants are sleeping.

We have problems with the border guards: they are aggressive. They keep reminding us that we are not welcome in their country, we applied for asylum but were rejected. Our rights are violated because we are deprived of our freedom.

We are humiliated, poorly fed, and have no legal aid. We have no hope, only 2% of these immigrants’ asylum applications have been accepted so far. Our Observer believes that they are not receiving the necessary legal assistance and that Lithuania has not taken the time to examine their cases in depth.

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