Lithuania has announced that migrants who agree to return to their countries of origin will be given €1,000, plus a plane ticket home. The amount has been increased from €300 to encourage more asylum seekers to leave voluntarily.
The Lithuanian government will significantly increase a cash incentive to migrants to go back to their countries of origin. Migrants who agree to return voluntarily are to receive €1,000 plus the flight home, according to the Lithuanian interior minister, Agne Bilotaite.
The amount is more than three times the original payment of €300 per returnee.
"After rejecting most of the asylum requests, we need solutions to return the migrants to their countries of origin," Bilotaite told the news agency AFP.
"We hope that the higher payment will increase the number of migrants who return voluntarily," she said.
The interior ministry said that the cash incentives would be funded by the European Commission.
Less than 1% granted refugee status
Thousands of migrants, mainly from the Middle East, have crossed or tried to cross the eastern border of the European Union into Latvia, Lithuania or Poland since the summer.
This week, Lithuania finished processing the asylum requests that had been submitted so far by migrants who crossed the border from Belarus. The vast majority of claims were rejected – only 54 of the 3,272 migrants who applied were granted refugee status, according to AFP.
Lithuania has been looking for ways to encourage the migrants to return home on a voluntary basis. Deportation is an expensive process which is not always successful, as the countries of origin can refuse to accept the migrants.
Forcibly returning people to Iraq is especially difficult because there is also no re-admission agreement between the EU and Iraq, whose citizens make up a large percentage of the migrants.
In addition to the thousands who managed to cross over irregularly from Belarus, Lithuanian border guards have said that they denied entry to nearly 8,900 others in what humanitarian groups have called illegal pushbacks.