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Seimas Ombudsmen‘s Office and UN Refugee Agency agree: the right to liberty of asylum-seekers and detention conditions in Lithuania is in need of increasing attention

30 March 2015

20150330-GM8R5873On Monday 30 March, the conference “Is detention the only option? The issues and challenges of the detention of asylum-seekers and other foreigners in Lithuania” was held at the Parliament in Lithuania.

Jointly organized by The Seimas (Parliament) Human Rights Committee, the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office, and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Lithuania, the conference focused on the right to liberty, legitimate restrictions of that right, detention monitoring, and the launch of the UNHCR’s Global Strategy “Beyond detention.’’

The conference was attended by more than 60 participants from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, different relevant state institutions and representatives of academia, the courts and civil society. Participants discussed further developments in the field of detention that are needed in order to bring the national practice fully in line with international and European standards.   

The Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office reported on the results of monitoring visits to the Foreigners’ Registration Centre and border units in 2014. The Lithuanian Red Cross Society presented border monitoring experience and shared its openness to assist the state in detention monitoring activities. 

“We constantly monitor and evaluate detention conditions of aliens in Lithuania and undertake the detention monitoring. After written reply on implementation of our recommendations is received, we often visit a place again to be sure that Seimas Ombudsman’s recommendations are implemented and if the recommendations are implemented properly”, said Seimas Ombudsman Augustinas Normantas.

Professor Marija Ausrine Pavilioniene, Member of Seimas Committee of Human Rights began by noting that asylum-seekers are a particularly vulnerable group in society and require special protection. "These people have often experienced the horrors of war, and physical, mental or sexual violence in their country of origin, thus ensuring the dignity of the human behavior upon their arrival after crossing the border always shows the maturity of the democratic state," she said. The member of the Committee emphasized the fact that the detention is an extreme measure, which applies only if no other alternatives are available.

Professor Lyra Jakulevičienė of Mykolas Romeris University outlined international standards applicable to detention and stressed strict regulation of restrictions to the right to liberty by EU law. She also mentioned several issues to be considered in light of the upcoming amendments to the Aliens Law, such as conditions for the application of alternative measures to detention, in particular as it relates to establishing of identity, availability of more alternatives to detention, application of detention to vulnerable persons and other.

In 2014 406 people claimed asylum in Lithuania. International protection was granted and resident permits were issued to 91 applicants, mainly from Afghanistan, Russian Federation and Ukraine.

The Law on the Seimas Ombudsmen allows the Seimas Ombudsmen to enter any social care or custodial institution at any time of the day in Lithuania. The Seimas Ombudsmen started implementing national prevention of torture in Lithuania in the beginning of 2014 when the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania adopted the Optional Protocol (OPCAT) to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

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