Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the country understands Lithuania’s experience with migrant issues, as the latter faces an influx of migrants trying to reach Lithuania illegally.
The comments came on the heels of a meeting of the two prime ministers in Athens, which came after officials from Lithuania and the European Union accused Belarus of using illegal immigrants to pressure the European Union over EU sanctions, TheSchengen.com reports.
“What Belarus is doing is simply unacceptable,” Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis said.
He also added that leaders discussed how to ensure adequate reception facilities, speed up the asylum procedure, as well as how to “effectively and expeditiously return people who do not deserve international protection”.
More than 1,700 people recently crossed the border into Lithuania, with 1,100 crossing illegally in July alone.
The Prime Minister of Lithuania noted that “the total number may not seem so frightening, but the trend is frightening.”
He also said that the number of people who entered illegally is 20 times more than in previous years.
Greece, like Lithuania, has had immigration problems with Turkey, after the 2015 crisis when a million people entered the European Union from Middle Eastern countries such as Syria and Afghanistan.
On the other hand, Athens is under fire for its handling of migrants’ issues after reporting cases of illegal “turning back” of migrant boats arriving in its waters from Turkey.
“Lithuania will also seek a more effective immigration policy,” said a spokeswoman for the Lithuanian prime minister.
In September, the European Union launched a plan to reform immigration rules in an effort to resolve the situation with refugees fleeing the Middle East and African countries.
On the other hand, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency has offered to help Lithuania and Latvia protect their borders with Belarus, due to the increase in illegal border crossings.
More than 400 people attempted to cross the border illegally from Belarus into Lithuania, in June, six times the total for 2020.
In September 2020, Lithuania accepted 205 Belarusians, who left their homeland amid protests and rallies over the election of President Lukashenko. A month later, Lithuania granted permission to another 507 Belarusians on humanitarian grounds.
As previously reported by TheSchengen.com, a Frontex report revealed that 11,100 people attempted to enter Europe illegally in June, which is a 69 percent increase compared to the same period last year.
Based on preliminary data, the number of illegal border crossings at Europe’s external borders reached more than 61,000 in the first half of 2021, or 59 percent more than the total from a year ago.