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U.S. Diplomat Calls On Lukashenka To Stop 'Irregular Migrant Flows'

Migrants stand behind a fence inside a newly built refugee camp in Lithuania on August 4.
Migrants stand behind a fence inside a newly built refugee camp in Lithuania on August 4.

A top U.S. diplomat has called on Belarus to stop allowing migrants to illegally cross into Lithuania and other neighboring countries.

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman raised the migrant situation along Lithuania's border with Belarus in a call on August 13 with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka should "immediately halt a campaign of orchestrating irregular migrant flows across its borders," Sherman said during the call, according to the statement.

Sherman also reaffirmed U.S. support for the Belarusian pro-democracy movement.

Lithuania since last month has seen a surge of mostly Iraqi migrants crossing the border with Belarus. In recent weeks Latvia and Poland have witnessed a similar wave, prompting authorities in the EU member states to beef up their border security and start pushing back illegal migrants.

Poland, the Baltic states, and EU officials have said the migrant flows are being orchestrated by Lukashenka in retaliation for EU sanctions over his government's crackdown on the country's pro-democracy movement.

The European Union said on August 10 that it hopes for a stabilization of the situation after Iraq suspended flights from Baghdad to Minsk.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda on August 13 signed a decree that calls for deploying members of the armed forces to the border to counter the increase in illegal migration.

Nauseda signed the decree expanding the powers of the military in the border area after a request from parliament, the Baltic News Service reported.

The move allows the military to stop and search people and vehicles and permits the use of unspecified "special equipment."

Some 4,026 individuals have illegally crossed into Lithuania from Belarus this year, the Lithuanian Interior Ministry said on August 3. That compares with only 74 in all of last year.

With reporting by Reuters and dpa
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