Lithuania's migrant centre criticized for keeping families behind bars, failing to provide interpreters

19 September 2019


Lithuania's facilities housing detained migrants fail to meet some basic standards, an investigation has revealed – the staff do not speak foreign languages, families with children are held behind bars and some children do not attend school.

These and other violations, such as failure to offer Muslims alternatives to meals with pork, were discovered in the Foreigners' Registration Centre by the Seimas Ombudsmen's Office.

“The rights of detained foreigners are not ensured, and the staff's negligent and intolerant attitude toward vulnerable persons is not conducive to offering the necessary assistance to the inmates,” the office said in a statement.

According to Seimas Ombudsman Augustinas Normantas, who carried out the probe, these violations of the inmates' rights are often caused by language barriers which prevent the centre's staff from responding to the migrants' special needs.

In the absence of interpreters, foreigners who live in the centre, based in Pabradė, often have to help one another to communicate their needs to the administration.

The centre's residents complain that not only do they have to act as interpreters, but also to accompany other inmates to healthcare facilities.

“They agree to be interpreters, because they want to help each other, but they note that this situation is unpleasant for them, because the language barrier often prevents them from getting the services they want; they have difficulty communicating with the staff in a constructive manner and finding out some information or asking for something,” Normantas said.

Another highly sensitive issue is the detention of minors, according to the ombudsman.

“In a specific case where a family with young children were detained, no measures were considered for the mother and the children other than detention and putting them behind bars,” the report says.

It also draws attention to the situation of disabled people in the Foreigners' Registration Centre. At the time of the investigation, a person with reduced mobility was accommodated on the second floor in a room that was not fitted for special needs. The report also notes poor access to healthcare services.

“It is not even clear on what days the centre's GP actually works,” Normantas said.

Inmates at the facility also complain about the quality of the services they receive, negligent attitude from health professionals, according to him.

Normantas recommends that the Health Ministry take action to ensure proper hygiene at the centre and that the Interior Ministry make sure to provide foreigners with a diet that meets their religious requirements.

The head of the State Border Protection Service is asked to provide the necessary funding to improve living conditions at the centre and ensure that the inmates' special needs are met.

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