Locals clash with police as they protest construction of camp for 1,500 migrants

Residents of two towns in Lithuania have protested against the government’s plans to erect temporary housing facilities for thousands of undocumented migrants in their local areas, with one group clashing with police after refusing to disperse.

Locals of the south-eastern town of Dieveniskes took to the streets on Saturday, campaigning against proposals to house up to 500 migrants in a disused building just 24 metres from a school. The local council unanimously voted against the proposals and dozens of residents prevented construction workers from beginning renovations on the site, prompting government officials to travel to the town for talks.

The town is situated in a pocket of Lithuania almost entirely surrounded by Belarus, whose despotic regime under Alexander Lukashenko has been accused of orchestrating a “hybrid attack” by helping to smuggle migrants across the border into the EU member state.

Meanwhile, protests turned to scuffles with police on Monday in Rūdninkai, a town further inland and approximately 30km from the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, as protestors made a human chain around the gates of a nearby military facility the government planned to use to house 1,500 illegals.

The protest was broken up by riot police after local residents refused to disperse, leading to eight arrests.

“For some reason, our state wants to give them asylum, even though they violated our constitution, even though they came to Lithuania illegally,” Darius, a 28-year-old protester told Baltic News Service.

Police have kept personnel guarding the facility into Tuesday with police spokesperson Ramūnas Matonis promising a robust response from authorities to protestors.

“The situation was hot yesterday – the road to the facility was blocked, such things should not happen and the police will react vigorously,” Matonis told LRT Radio.

“It depends on the situation, if there are incidents, the police will be ready to respond, but if there are none, there won’t be much force on the ground.”