Middle East, Europe

Iraq agrees to move stranded nationals to Lithuanian capital

Lithuanian government increases financial grants for refugees willing to voluntarily return to their country

Ali Jawad   | 18.12.2021
Iraq agrees to move stranded nationals to Lithuanian capital

BAGHDAD 

The Iraqi government on Saturday agreed to have its nationals stranded along the Lithuanian border moved to residential complexes in the capital, Vilnius.

In a statement, the Ministry of Immigration said the agreement was reached following a visit by an Iraqi government delegation to Lithuania to assess the humanitarian conditions of Iraqis stranded along the Lithuania-Belarus border.

The statement said the deal will see Iraqis in border camps transferred to residential complexes in Vilnius.

The ministry said the Lithuanian government has increased financial grants paid to those wishing to return voluntarily to their country from 300 euros to 1,000 euros.

Last Sunday, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said 3,556 Iraqis who were stranded on the border between Lithuania and Belarus have been brought back home.

Their evacuation came as the humanitarian crisis worsened for thousands of irregular migrants at the borders of Belarus and the European Union.

Due to unfavorable living conditions in Iraq, a large number of people have been waiting in difficult conditions at the Belarusian border to travel to Europe for a better life.

Since August, EU countries bordering Belarus -- Lithuania, Latvia and Poland -- have reported a dramatically growing number irregular migrants from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria crossing their borders.

Reports say that since the start of the year, the Lithuanian border guards have caught more than 4,000 migrants, mostly from Iraq, compared to only 81 in 2020.

The EU accuses Belarus of reaching out to potential travelers through seemingly official channels, including diplomatic missions and travel agencies, and invites them to Belarus by offering them visas. They are then allegedly guided to the EU border.

* Writing by Ibrahim Mukhtar

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