Lithuania’s migration situation has been shaped by steep population decline since it joined the EU (dropping by some 15 percent since 2004), shrinking migrant population, and relatively minor asylum pressures (with roughly 400 asylum applicants a year). And yet, the country remains among the worst performers with respect to its integration policies, according to the Migrant Integration Policy Index, which may be an important indicator for how it responds to migrants and refugees during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The country has one dedicated immigraiton detention centre, the Pabrade Detention Centre (also known as the Foreigners Registration Centre), which is located north-east of Vilnius. The facility has attracted widespread criticism because of its poor conditions, repeated allegations of disproportionate use of force, and overcrowding.
On 16 March 2020, the Lithuanian government announced a nationwide quarantine and measures including closing borders, education institutions, bars, restaurants and shops. The country has suspended deportations. The Migration Department has informed that non-citizens whose period of legal residence expired during the declared quarantine and who were unable to depart from Lithuania in due time through no fault of their own, will not be subject to return decisions or administrative liability for illegal stay. The Department added that these individuals “as well as those with respect to whom the decision regarding the return has been adopted, but the period for the voluntary departure expired during the quarantine, may stay in Lithuania during the quarantine. However, they will be required to depart after the end of the quarantine within the established period of toleration.”
There are several non-governmental initiatives that have been launched to support migrants during the outbreak. An online Lithuanian doctor volunteer network MEDo provides health-related consultations in English, Swedish and Norwegian. Also, Human Aid has launched Stream, a mutual assistance and online volunteering platform for refugees and asylum seekers living in Lithuania. The initiative organises online seminars, workshops, training and counselling on a wide range of topics and in several different languages.
On 19 March 2020, the Ministry of Justice announced a series of measures for the country’s prisons including regular cleaning and disinfection, placing prisoners who test positive for Covid-19 and those who have had contact with these in isolation and providing prison staff with disinfectant gel and masks. On the same day, visits by family members were suspended. Women’s prisons have begun producing masks.
The GDP has been unable to find any reports indicating whether measures have been taken to safeguard migrants and asylum seekers in detention in Lithuania.
- European Commission, “Lithuania – Response to Covid-19 and Impact on Migrant and Refugee Integration,” 7 April 2020, ec.europa.eu/migrant-integration/news/lithuania-response-to-covid-19-and-impact-on-migrant-and-refugee-integration
- Migration Department (Ministry of the Interior), “Legal Status of Foreigners in the Republic of Lithuania during the Quarantine,” 31 March 2020, http://migracija.lrv.lt/en/news/legal-status-of-foreigners-in-the-republic-of-lithuania-during-the-quarantine
- Human Aid & SocialTalk, “Information About Covid-19 for Migrants and National Minorities Living in Lithuania,” accessed on 16 April 2020, https://mipas.lt/2020/03/30/informacija-apie-covid-19-lietuvoje-gyvenantiems-migrantams/
- Ministry of Justice: Prison Department (LT), “Prevention Measures in European Prisons Against Covid-19,” Europris, 19 March 2020, https://www.europris.org/ministry-of-justice-prison-department-lt/
- Two Detainees Seen Through Barbed Wire at Pabrade Detention Centre, (GB Times Lithuania, “Lithuanian immigrant detention center to offer vegetarian food”, 17 January 2014, https://gbtimes.com/lithuanian-immigrant-detention-center-offer-vegetarian-food)