Lithuania refuses to accept mandatory number of refugees

Lithuania refuses to accept mandatory number of refugees
# 15 September 2015 21:58 (UTC +04:00)

"Lithuania's stance is very clear: our country is against a permanent mechanism," Renaldas Vaisbrodas, the president's chief advisor on foreign affairs, told local broadcaster Ziniu Radijas.

The mechanism does not solve the main effects of the migrant crisis, he stressed. The Presidency believes effective policy should be in place in order to ensure EU border control and to prevent human smuggling.

"As our president (Dalia Grybauskaite) already mentioned in her statements, Lithuania sees the European Commission's proposal on migrants' resettlement within the EU as a recommendation. We showed our solidarity by agreeing on the Commission's recommended refugees number for Lithuania and are preparing to receive them on our territory," Vaisbrodas said.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius noted he cannot say how many refugees may arrive in the country in the future.

"The number might change any time. If we speak now, about 120,000 refugees could be one estimate. Another estimate is 160,000," Butkevicius said in a separate interview with national broadcaster LRT.

Lithuania has earlier agreed to accept 1,105 refugees over two years.

EU interior ministers on Monday failed to agree on a mandatory refugee relocation scheme for 120,000 people. Ministers only arrived at an agreement on relocating 40,000 refugees "in clear need of international protection." Other decisions were postponed to October.

Saulius Skvernelis, Lithuania's minister of interior, underlined that dealing with refugee crisis' root causes, rather than a mandatory relocation mechanism, should top the agenda during a ministerial meeting in Brussels.

"This was the wording of the draft council conclusions that all countries agree to participate in the temporary resettlement of 120,000 refugees. It did not say anything about introducing a permanent mechanism," Skvernelis was quoted as saying by BNS news agency.

He mentioned that in case of a refugee influx, Lithuania would be ready to resume temporary border controls.

"The Schengen rules envisage this possibility. If we face the threat of a refugee influx, as the case is in other countries, we would do the same," the minister told BNS Tuesday.

Lithuania has backed Brussels' proposal to distribute 160,000 refugees from Hungary, Italy and Greece among other EU member states.