APPLYING FOR ASYLUM IS NOT A CRIME – FOR HUMANE TREATMENT ~ Dutch Art Institute (DAI) currently (November 2021) hosted by NAC in Nida, Lithuania wishes to express its solidarity with the migrants and refugees trapped between Lithuania and Belarus, as well as with all the people that are supporting them. SIGN THE PETITION HERE.

"We, the undersigned members of Lithuanian civil society, are deeply concerned about the irregular migration management measures adopted by the Government of the Republic of Lithuania] and the attitude being shaped in our society and the media that demonises irregular migrants and justifies human rights violations. Increased migration to Lithuania undoubtedly  raises challenges and demands for developing a strategy and building an infrastructure for reception and integration, yet migration is not a crime and people seeking asylum are not a threat. It is an opportunity to create a more diverse, open, tolerant and richer Lithuania.

The actions taken by the Lithuanian government are in violation of human rights. We do not deny that the Belarusian regime is using migrants trying to reach the European Union in order to apply political pressure on Lithuania. However, the efforts of Belarusian authorities to divert the flow of irregular migration would not be successful if the countries of origin of the migrants (Iraq, Congo, Cameroon, Syria, Iran etc.) were politically and economically stable and safe enough to live a dignified life. Eurostat 2020 data shows that 43%, 85% and 59% of asylum applications submitted in the European Union by Iraqi, Syrian and Afghan citizens respectively are approved at first instance. After the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, no Afghan citizens should be deported. The Government of Lithuania accuses the Belarusian regime of terrorism and has created a humanitarian corridor for Belarusians fleeing persecution, yet considers this country safe for migrants. The push-backs of migrants to Belarus practiced since early August are in breach of the non-refoulement principle of the international asylum law established by the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Art. 33) and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (Art. 19).

It is impossible to know who has the right to asylum and who does not  without considering individual asylum cases. Therefore, the Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees requires that asylum seekers are not punished for crossing the border illegally until their status has been established (Art. 31). Increased numbers of migrants cannot justify amendments to the laws with the aim to restrict the fundamental human right to asylum. Last year, the Court of Justice of the EU ruled that Hungary had breached the EU law by drastically restricting access to asylum procedures with law changes in 2015 and 2017. Amendments to the Republic of Lithuania Law on the Legal Status of Aliens adopted on July 13th and August 10th also de facto heavily restrict asylum seekers’ access to asylum in our country and curtail their rights by mass detention. Lithuania’s unwillingness to assume its international obligations vis-a-vis several thousands of migrants is surprising, given how many of its residents have historically emigrated in search of asylum. At the end of the Second World War alone, 60,000 residents fled the Soviet regime in Lithuania, finding asylum in Western Europe, Americas and Australia.

Migration is an opportunity for both the individual and the society. To accept refugees is not only a legal and moral obligation – it is also an economic gain. Although it requires initial investment of public funds, the returns are almost double in five years (1) as refugees find employment or establish businesses and contribute to a more diverse and tolerant society enriched with new skills and innovative ideas. The fear of criminality associated with migrants is also unfounded. Data from Germany that had accepted more than one million asylum seekers in 2015-2016 shows that refugees do not commit crime more often than Germans, although they  themselves frequently suffer from hate crimes (2).

Seeking a sustainable solution, we demand that the Government of Lithuania and its state institutions:

1. To comply with the obligations laid down in the Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and  to ensure transparency;

2. To ensure security and the needs of children and other vulnerable migrant groups;

3. Not to depict irregular migrants as aggressors and Belarus as a country safe for them;

4. Not to push back asylum seekers to Belarus and to obligate border guards to inform asylum seekers where and how to apply for asylum and to provide opportunities to submit the application;

5. To take decisions on the detention of asylum seekers on an individual basis, upon assessment of necessity of this measure, and not to use mass detention;

6. To competently review asylum cases with regard to individual circumstances while providing legal aid, information and translation to asylum seekers in the process;

7. To improve living conditions in the migrants’ accommodation facilities, ensuring access to necessary medical aid, basic material conditions, information, social services and to ensure religious and other basic humanitarian needs;

8. To legally ensure access for independent organisations in order to provide assistance to asylum seekers and conduct monitoring of potential violations of their rights [3].


Petition’s signatories

NGO “Diversity Development Group”

Refugee Council of Lithuania

Lithuanian Centre for Human Rights

Human Rights Monitoring Institute

May 1st Labour Union

Tolerant Youth Association

Arts Agency ARTSCAPE

Lithuanian Council of Muslims Religious Communities – Muftiate

NGO “Psichikos sveikatos perspektyvos”

Centre for Equality Advancement

National LGBT Rights Organisation LGL

Staff of the news portal “Gyvenimas per brangus”

Student movement “Šauksmas”

Student Representatives of Vilnius University “Without Labels”

Civil society initiative “Kaunas Pride”

Movement “DiEM25 Vilnius”

Demos Institute of Critical Thought

Movement “Fridays for Future”

Movement “Extinction Rebellion Lithuania”

Movement “Momentum”

Petition is also supported by

The Lithuanian Green Party

Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM)

The Non-Governmental Organisation Information and Support Centre (NISC)

Association of Applied Anthropology “Anthropos”

Migrant Voice UK

Consortium of Migrants Assisting Organisations in the Czech Republic

Vilnius social club

(1) Meanwhile, strict immigration policy is expensive. See Martin Lemberg-Pedersen, 2019, “Security, Industry, and Migration in European Border Control“ in Agnieszka Weinar, Saskia Bonjour, Lyubov Zhyznomirska (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of the Politics of Migration in Europe, Routledge.

(2) Thomas Feltes, Katrin List and Maximilian Bertamini, 2018, “More Refugees, More Offenders, More Crime? Critical Comments with Data from Germany“ in H. Kury, S. Redo (eds.), Refugees and Migrants in Law and Policy, Springer, pp. 599-624.

(3) Since the adoption of amendments to the Law on the Legal Status of Aliens on July 13th, detained migrants are not ensured the right to meet with representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or other non-governmental organisations that provide legal advice."