The construction of the border barrier comes a week after Vilnius declared a state of emergency to deal with the sharp increase in the influx of migrants, which he says is encouraged by the Belarusian authorities.
Relations between the two neighboring countries have been strained since the August 2020 elections in Belarus, which were won by long-time President Alexander Lukashenko, and which the West deemed fraudulent.
The poll’s results sparked months of protests and a severe crackdown on opposition to Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime.
Lithuania, which supports and provides sanctuary to Belarus opposition figures, accuses the neighboring country of organizing border crossings for people mostly from Iraq, the Middle East and Africa.
A 550-kilometre double razor wire fence will be installed, covering most of the roughly 680-kilometre border, and will cost 41 million euros, according to Lithuania’s Minister of Interior, Agni Pilotite.
In the past two months, more than 1,500 people entered Lithuania – 20 times more than in the whole of 2020.
Lukashenko said this week that his country would not close its borders and “become a camp for people who fled Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Tunisia”.
And he added in a sarcastic tone: “We will not hold anyone, they do not come to our country, but to a bright, warm and welcoming Europe.”
The European Union, of which Lithuania belongs, said it would help the Baltic nation of 2.8 million people, which has already set up camps to accommodate the rising numbers of migrants.
Tensions escalated between the European Union and Belarus after Belarus hijacked a passenger plane on May 23 to hold a dissident journalist on board.
Lukashenko said his country would suspend its cooperation with the European Union to stem the flow of migrants, in retaliation for the violent economic sanctions imposed by the 27 countries on Belarus after the hijacking of the plane.