Border guards have been deployed to bolster Lithuania's frontier amid a surge of illegal migrants pouring in through Belarus, European Union officials have announced.
Following requests from multiple Baltic nations for additional support, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (also known as Frontex) agreed to send teams to Lithuania and Latvia to help mitigate a "significant rise in the number of illegal border crossings from Belarus in recent weeks."
"In June alone, more than 400 people were detected crossing illegally into Lithuania from Belarus, six times the total number recorded in all of last year. While Latvia has not seen such a spike, it has also asked Frontex for support as a precautionary measure," the agency explained in a press release.
A substantial uptick in migrant traffic from Belarus came after President Alexander Lukashenko threatened to allow migrants and drugs to flood Europe amid fraying diplomatic relations with the E.U. earlier this year.
More than 600 migrants illegally crossed the Lithuania-Belarus border between Friday and Tuesday alone.
Most of the migrants entering Lithuania reportedly hail from Iraq, Syria, and Africa.
"We condemn all attempts to instrumentalise illegal migration to exert pressure on EU member states," said European Council President Charles Michel.
"My European Council colleagues are very clear that... the Belarus authorities are using irregular migration to try and put pressure on the European Union, including Lithuania."
Lithuanian officials have asserted that a steady stream of migrants are arriving aboard flights to Minsk and believe the Belarusian government may be helping them travel onwards to the tiny Baltic nation.
In June, Lithuania began constructing a temporary asylum shelter designed to house up to 1,000 people.
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(PHOTO: PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP via Getty Images)