Lithuanian civilians engage in patrolling border area expecting migrant influx

In Lithuania, where an emergency situation has been declared along the country’s border with Belarus over possible mass irregular migration, several dozen civilians gathered in the border area to look for migrants and smugglers, Lithuanian public broadcaster LRT and journalist Jurga Bakaitė report.
The citizens’ patrol took place in the first weekend of November, before the emergency situation was announced. «The police have police supporters; the military has the Riflemen’s Union. So, we try to be unofficial supporters of the border guards,» Laurynas Juozas Liutkus, one of the organisers of the patrols, said to In his words, the initiative is not only aimed at stopping the movement of migrants but also at monitoring other irregularities at the border, such as suspicious vehicles and possible smuggling.
According to organisers, the patrol initiative is ongoing, and everyone who has large vehicles is welcome to join it. But the Lithuanian Border Guard Service (VSAT) said the civilian action was a one-off occurrence.
«Now, the situation is radically different, and it is difficult to talk about extending [the initiative],» VSAT’s spokesman Giedrius Mišutis told, referring to the state of emergency that was declared in Lithuania’s border region with Belarus on Wednesday, November 10.
Anthropologist points to threats
According to Ieva Jusionytė, an anthropologist researching power relations on countries’ borders, there are significant risks associated with civilian patrol initiatives. «Citizens organise patrols because they perceive a threat and think that the state institutions are not strong enough to deal with it,» Jusionytė said. «Their threat perception is largely influenced by rumours, social media, and politicians, rather than by direct experience.» According to the anthropologist, such unofficial patrols «could lead to illegal actions, even lynching» that the society might never find out about. Civilians are also not allowed to ask for people’s documents, so patrols might form opinions about those they meet based on their looks, LRT reports quoting Jusionytė.
The article originally appeared on LRT English: