HRMI has made proposals for draft laws on the rights of migrants and asylum seekers

March 14, 2023

We submitted comments and proposals on the draft laws amending the Law on the State Border and its Protection (LSA) and the Law on the Legal Status of Aliens (LSA ).

We propose to abandon the legalisation of “reversals”

In our comments to the draft amendments to the ISA, we pointed out that the proposed regulation, which would provide for the possibility to exclude border crossers or persons who have crossed the border from the territory of the Republic of Lithuania in the event of a declared emergency due to a mass influx of foreigners (in effect, legalising “detours”), would severely restrict persons’ access to asylum procedures, their right to apply for asylum in Lithuania and their right to stay on the territory of Lithuania during the processing of an asylum application.

Although the draft law proposes to exempt persons fleeing military aggression or persecution, as well as persons admitted on humanitarian grounds, we note in our comments that such an assessment, i.e., whether a person is fleeing military aggression and/or persecution in his/her country of origin, is essentially equivalent to an assessment of whether a person has grounds for asylum in Lithuania. Such an assessment can be carried out not by the State Border Guard Service (SBGS), but by the Migration Department, which is the competent authority for examining asylum applications, in accordance with the provisions of the UPR Law and other legal acts.

In our comments, we point out that such a regulation would not provide the necessary guarantees and safeguards against arbitrary return/expulsion of persons. In our comments, we also suggest that, in line with the recommendation of the United Nations Committee against Torture, the law should provide for the possibility, also in the event of an emergency situation, for non-governmental and international organisations and journalists providing humanitarian aid or carrying out monitoring activities, to enter the border area without separate permits issued by the SSSS.

Full text of the comments on the amendments to the ISA.

Long-term de facto detention should no longer be an option

In our comments on the draft UPR, we note that the proposed draft does not address the problem of the possibility of mass de facto detention, which is a significant and disproportionate limitation of the rights of migrants and asylum seekers. The observations note that irregular border crossers, including asylum seekers, were accommodated in conditions which have been recognised by independent national and international authorities, Lithuanian courts and the Court of Justice of the European Union as amounting to detention.

In our comments, we suggest that the law should establish detention as a measure of last resort, to be applied only by a court decision and for the shortest possible period of time; and that persons who are detained or otherwise deprived of their liberty should be duly informed of their rights in a way that enables them to exercise them in practice, including their right to appeal a decision to detain or otherwise deprive them of their liberty and to have access to state-guaranteed legal assistance; establish by law that detention does not apply to vulnerable asylum seekers (people with disabilities, unaccompanied minors, elderly people, victims of trafficking, etc.)) and families with children.

Full text of the comments on the amendments to the UTPO.

The notes were prepared in the framework of the project “Crossing the border: monitoring and advocacy on the rights of migrants and asylum seekers” supported by the Active Citizens Foundation.