Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has warned that over 2,500 asylum seekers and migrants are being detained in "inhumane" conditions in Lithuania after they crossed the border from Belarus. The NGO said many are at risk of mental health degradation.
More than 2,500 asylum seekers and migrants are being detained in "inhumane" conditions in Lithuania, nine months after they crossed the border from Belarus, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) reported.
The humanitarian organization said in a statement on May 6 that it was "extremely concerned about the impact of prolonged detention on asylum seekers' and migrants' mental health" and called on the Lithuanian authorities to "end arbitrary detention immediately."
"MSF teams have witnessed the physical and mental health distress caused by detention," said Georgina Brown, MSF's country representative in Lithuania. "People do not have access to a fair asylum process and there is no specialised support for psychiatric disorders or survivors of torture and sexual violence," she added.
"Prolonged arbitrary detention for migrants and asylum seekers in Lithuania must end immediately and all asylum claims should be fairly assessed as quickly as possible," Brown urged.
'We are trapped'
MSF said many migrants don't know when they will be released.
"I want to know what our future is," a man detained in the Lithuanian city of Kybartai told MSF. "We are trapped."
Most migrants were detained in 2021 following a sharp increase in the number of people from Iraq, Congo, Syria, Cameroon and Afghanistan trying to cross from Belarus into Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, MSF said in its statement.
"European Union migration policies aimed at restricting migration and expanding detention have a detrimental impact on people's mental health and wellbeing," MSF said.
"Between January and March 2022, MSF's psychologists treated 98 patients, 60% of whom had anxiety related complaints. Most of these patients stated that their anxiety was related to the conditions of detention. Uncertainty and limited access to legal aid are also cited as major stressors," it added.
LGBTQ+ face increased risks
Members of the LGBTQ+ community are particularly at risk of discrimination and mental health decline, MSF warned.
"I tried several times to kill myself without success," a detainee who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community told MSF.
MSF said that the conditions of detention in Lithuania are "inadequate" to respond to the health and protection needs of migrants and asylum seekers.
"Many also report degrading treatment and violence by the guards managing the two detention facilities where MSF works," it noted.