A soldier of Latvian National Armed Forces (NAF) patrols along a new barbed wire fence, donated by the Slovenian Ministry of Defense, on the state border with Belarus in Kraslava region, Latvia, 28 September 2021 | Photo: ARCHIVE/EPA/VALDA KALNINA
A soldier of Latvian National Armed Forces (NAF) patrols along a new barbed wire fence, donated by the Slovenian Ministry of Defense, on the state border with Belarus in Kraslava region, Latvia, 28 September 2021 | Photo: ARCHIVE/EPA/VALDA KALNINA

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has spoken against lengthy detention and systematic discrimination against migrants and asylum seekers in Lithuania and has urged that an end be put to these practices and that more humane alternatives be brought in without delay.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on August 30 condemned the "prolonged detention and systemic discrimination in Lithuania" against migrants.

In a statement, the NGO said that it called "for the immediate implementation of humane alternatives that equitably meet the needs of vulnerable and traumatized people."

"Vulnerable migrants and people seeking asylum who are held in prolonged detention in Lithuania are experiencing an alarming deterioration in their mental health. The Lithuanian authorities' flawed migration practices and legal processes are further discriminating against certain nationalities, and contributing to the continued detention of these people," it said.

700 men, women and children detained

"Many of the people detained have survived deeply traumatic experiences," says Georgina Brown, MSF country manager in Lithuania.

"But, instead of responding to their needs, the Lithuanian authorities are worsening their mental suffering by detaining them and holding them in limbo."

"These men, women, and children are uncertain of their future, terrified of being forcibly returned to the danger they have fled, and imprisoned without freedom, autonomy, or adequate protection," said Brown.

"People's resilience will diminish, and their suffering will only grow exponentially. Appallingly, we know that some nationalities are more likely to have this detention extended than others, creating a hierarchy of suffering that the Lithuanian authorities should be deeply ashamed of."

"Approximately 700 people are detained in Kybartai, Pabrade and Rukla and Naujininkai Foreigner Registration Centres (FRCs) in Lithuania, after having crossed the border from Belarus in 2021. Many of these people have grave vulnerabilities and have experienced traumatising events, such as having been tortured or sexually assaulted. Detention is only exacerbating these people's suffering, and some nationalities are experiencing higher rates of extensions to their detention," the MSF statement noted.

Of the patients MSF provided mental healthcare for between January and March 2022, "over 70 per cent highlighted detention as being the main cause of their need for support," it said.

"I am so desperate, I tried to hurt myself because I want to go out from this prison," a man detained in an FRC in Lithuania told us. "Many times, I really decided to be ready to kill myself."

'Lengthy detention must end'

"That the cruelty of detention is compounded in Lithuania by discriminatory practices and flawed legal processes, resulting in the further abuse of certain nationalities, underscores the inhumanity of the country's approach to migration. It is the antithesis of the dignified and humane treatment, as well as the basic human rights, that these people are entitled to while in search of international protection," the MSF statement stressed.

"In light of the suffering of the people who remain detained in Lithuania, and the Lithuanian authorities' shameful contribution to the collective global degradation of the human rights of refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers, MSF is calling for prolonged detention to be immediately ended. We also urge the implementation of an equitable asylum system that respects the dignity, health and human rights of people seeking safety in Lithuania," it concluded.

 

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