UPDATED: Frontex vows additional support for Lithuania amid migrant crisis, US expresses concern

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EU border agency Frontex said it would ramp up its support for Lithuania next week, as the country deals with an increase in migrants crossing its border.

The agency vowed to deploy more officers and patrol cars to secure Lithuania’s border. 

“We are ready to strengthen our level of support and deploy more European standing corps officers and equipment. We are speeding up and beefing up what was already planned,” Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri said in a statement. “And in close cooperation with the Lithuanian authorities we are preparing furthermore a Rapid Border Intervention.”

“Lithuania’s border is our common external border and Frontex stands ready to help where needed,” Leggeri added.

The Lithuanian government said 1,500 migrants have been detained so far as of Friday, with many of them coming from the Middle East and Africa. 

Lithuania announced Friday that it would build a wall on its border with Belarus to stem migration. Vilnius has accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of causing the surge and has declared a state of emergency in Lithuania.

Lukashenko threatened the EU with mass migration last week in response to sanctions imposed by Europe.

Meanwhile, the United States is concerned about the flow of Middle Eastern and African migrants from Belarus into Lithuania, a U.S. diplomat said.

Lithuania began building a 550-km (320-mile) razor wire barrier on its border with Belarus on Friday after accusing Belarusian authorities of flying in migrants from abroad to send illegally into the European Union.

“We are watching it very closely and with concern”, said U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent in an interview with Lithuanian news website, published on Sunday.

He said the “pressure tactic” is comparable to migrant flows from Russia to Finland and Norway in 2015.

“That’s something that we call on Belarusian authorities to stop – intentionally pushing migrants from other countries to the Lithuanian border”, said Kent.

Photo A View of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) headquarters in Warsaw, Poland. EPA-EFE/JAKUB KAMINSKI

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