From file: Frostbite and hypothermia have been reported among migrants here at the Lipa camp | Screenshot from DW video report
From file: Frostbite and hypothermia have been reported among migrants here at the Lipa camp | Screenshot from DW video report

A third migrant has reportedly lost a limb after suffering frostbite at the Belarus-Lithuania border. That's according to Lithuanian authorities who confirmed they had to amputate an Egyptian man's leg on Thursday.

On Thursday, December 8, an Egyptian man reportedly had to have his leg amputated in a Lithuanian hospital after succumbing to frostbite at the Lithuanian-Belarus border. The Lithuanian public broadcaster LRT confirmed the report, wrote the European broadcaster Euronews.

"Two Egyptians are currently in hospital," a Red Cross spokesperson Luka Lesauskaite reportedly told LRT, wrote Euronews. "One man is in a very difficult situation, he is in great shock. The doctors told him that part of his leg had to be removed, and he was very resistant, he did not want to do it," added Lesauskaite.

According to Euronews, Lesauskaite said the Red Cross did not know if any other migrants might also be in danger or in a serious condition at the border, as the Red Cross was only informed of the health condition of those migrants who had applied for asylum.

Numerous medical interventions

The Lithuanian Border Force told Euronews however that they had taken migrants to hospital 30 times between July and December and a medic had been called 40 times to assist people at the border.

In November, two Sri Lankan men were also reportedly operated on and had to have legs amputated after being trapped in sub-zero temperatures between the two countries for some time. The Lithuanian authorities reportedly told LRT that the migrants had been exposed for a prolonged length of time to wet and cold conditions.

During that month, Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite claimed that Belarus had been forcing migrants across the border without shoes or the appropriate winter clothes. However, Bilotatite also underlined that arriving with inadequate clothing would not be grounds to grant asylum.

Lithuanian authorities have also accused Belarusian border guards of cutting holes in the fences in order to allow migrants access to the EU. Videos have circulated on social media purporting to show these orchestrated actions.

'Constantly trembles'

In November, the online news portal Vice news spoke to the brother-in-law of one of the Sri Lankan men, who they said had had to have one leg amputated as well as all five toes on his remaining leg due to frostbite.

"We were shocked," said the man's 37-year-old brother-in-law, who lives in Germany with his wife and child. "I call him every day and he just cries and cries," the man told Vice, adding that Lithuanian aid workers said his 25-year-old brother-in-law was in such a bad state after the experience that he "constantly trembles."

Another Sri Lankan man, who was reportedly just 20 years old also had a limb amputated in the same hospital, reported Vice.

The two men are reportedly considering legal action since in the case of the first man, additional medical help was not offered to him until three days after his initial detention.

The younger man, wrote Vice, also claims that he was not assessed for injuries before being initially pushed back; he claims to have already been hurt at that time. A week later, after making it into Lithuania again, he says he was finally checked.

Lithuania's Interior Ministry did not respond to Vice's inquiries about whether or not the authorities followed all the legal procedures.

More nationalities arriving via Belarus

Most migrants arriving in Lithuania hope to make it on to Germany, Vice reported. When migrants first started arriving via the Baltic countries and Poland from Belarus, they consisted predominantly of those coming from the Middle East, from countries like Iraq and Iran.

Now, more and more people from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, Nigeria, Egypt and the Democratic Republic of Congo are trying to arrive using that route.

The dispute between Belarus and its EU neighbors began in summer 2021, when EU member states accused Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, of using migrants as a "hybird weapon" against the bloc by bringing them into Belarus and attempting to push them over the border into the EU.

Numerous NGOs and some of the migrants affected accuse the EU members states like Lithuania and Poland of also pushing migrants back.

Deaths at the border

Most countries have since built walls, fences and barriers along much of their borders with Belarus, making it more difficult to access the EU and often leaving migrants stuck in the area of no-man's land between the two countries -- often between opposing sets of armed guards.

Several migrants have already been recorded dead on the border between Poland and Belarus, but no deaths have so far been reported from the Baltic States.

The humanitarian organization Sienos Grupe, which operates in Lithuania, told Vice in November that calls from migrants to their hotline had started to increase again since October. They confirmed that they often find migrants in "miserable conditions" near the Belarusian border.

"We see people sometimes with no cover from snow or rain, no roof, no tent, and sometimes with very little clothes," said one aid worker from the group speaking anonymously to Vice.

"People come really unprepared with their light jackets. Literally, we met people with no shoes because they lose shoes while crossing through the swamps," they added.

Lithuania accused of worsening mental health of migrants

Humanitarian medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) condemned Lithuania's alleged mistreatment of migrants in September this year. The charity accused Lithuania of "prolonged detention and systematic discrimination" against migrants.

At the time, the charity said that Lithuania had detained at least 700 people since 2021.

"Many of the people detained have survived deeply traumatic experiences," said 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," she added.

A man detained in Lithuania told MSF that he was so desperate that he "tried to hurt myself because I want to go out from this prison," as reported by the news agency ANSA.

"Many times, I really decided to be ready to kill myself."


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