LONDON: Amnesty International has accused Lithuanian authorities of arbitrarily detaining thousands of migrants in military centers, subjecting them to “inhumane treatment” and torturing them.
Amnesty International released a report detailing how refugees and migrants have been held for months in prison-like facilities in Lithuania, where they are denied fair asylum procedures and subjected to serious human rights violations.
Amnesty International conducted interviews with dozens of refugees from Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Many have reported being beaten, insulted and subjected to racially-motivated intimidation and harassment by guards.
They also complained of insufficient access to sanitary facilities and healthcare.“In Iraq, we hear about human rights and women’s rights in Europe. But here there are no rights”, said a Yazidi woman who was detained in the Medininkai detention center to Amnesty.
This treatment stands in stark contrast to the treatment of people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.
“While Lithuania has rightly extended a warm welcome to tens of thousands of people fleeing Ukraine, the experience of the detainees we spoke with could not be more different. This raises serious concerns about institutional racism embedded within Lithuania’s migration system.” said Nils Muižnieks, Europe Regional Director of Amnesty International.
In July 2021, lawmakers passed new legislation mandating the detention of people who irregularly crossed into Lithuanian territory.
In order to escape EU legal safeguards against arbitrary detention, Lithuanian authorities described such detention as “temporary accommodation”.
The detainees interviewed by Amnesty International reported the aggressive behavior of the center’s guards when they protested against the appalling detention conditions.
Authorities retaliated by beating them with batons, spraying them with pepper spray, and using taser guns.
A psychologist who worked at the center is being investigated for alleged sexual violence against detainees in his care.
Amnesty International also documented how racialized detainees, particularly Black men and women, were subjected to profoundly offensive racist slurs.
Despite the overwhelming evidence released today by Amnesty and other international organizations and local groups over the last year, the European Parliament claims that there is no hard evidence of these international and EU law violations.
Speaking to Euronews, Lithuanian interior minister Agne Bilotaite said the report “tends to reflect the views and testimonies of only one side,” and that Lithuania had “continuously cooperated with all human rights institutions and organisations and adhered to the principle of open dialogue and the rule of law.”