Lithuanian troops set up a razor wire fence along the border with Belarus in July 2021 Lithuanian troops set up a razor wire fence along the border with Belarus in July 2021 

Pope Francis sends aid to migrants stranded in Lithuania

Pope Francis sends an aid package to Caritas Vilnius to assist migrants stranded in Lithuania near its border with Belarus, as many complain of harsh treatment and difficult living conditions.

By Devin Watkins

The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development announced Saturday that Pope Francis has sent 50,000 Euro to Caritas Vilnius, which is assisting migrants stuck near Lithuania’s eastern border.

The Pope’s aid package offers an immediate expression of his “feeling of spiritual closeness and paternal encouragement”, according to a statement.

He has sent the funds through the Apostolic Nunciature in Lithuania, which will go toward providing migrants with medicines, foodstuffs, and warm clothing.

The statement says the aid will help them endure the “harsh living conditions which they are suffering during this cold winter, which are aggravated also by the ongoing pandemic.”

‘Engineered’ migration crisis

Thousands of migrants streamed from Belarus into Lithuania, Poland, and Latvia in the summer of 2021, sparking a renewed migration crisis.

The European Union accused Belarus’ president of orchestrating the migrant influx in retaliation for EU sanctions.

Lithuania threw up a fence along its Belarus border and opened hastily-constructed reception centers for migrants.

Most hail from Middle Eastern and African nations, and many have been stuck for months in the reception centers.

Harsh life in the camps

Lithuania’s parliament passed a law in July 2021 that allowed asylum seekers to be detained for up to six months, which was later extended for up to a year. The law also allows migrants to be deported while their asylum appeal is being considered.

Reports have emerged from the migrant camps of harsh treatment at the hands of military personnel.

Asylum seekers complain of poor hygienic conditions, including discolored water, very little soap, and poor heating.

Holy Father’s care and concern

Pope Francis has frequently voiced his support for migrants facing difficult conditions in the area.

Earlier this year, he sent a separate donation to assist migrants stuck on Poland’s border with Belarus.

One important aspect of his upcoming visit to Malta in April will be to highlight the dangerous plight of migrants seeking to enter the EU.

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12 February 2022, 12:01