The European Union must prioritize the security of European citizens over that of refugees, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė believes. If that requires reintroducing border controls, so be it, she said in an interview with LRT radio.
Dalia Grybauskaitė
© AFP/Scanpix

"We must make screening procedures stricter. If two years is what it takes to ensure the security of our people, European citizens, and our countries, this should be our priority. We cannot sacrifice the security of our people for those who come without documents, from who-knows-where and are reluctant to cooperate and integrate, do not follow our laws and commit crimes," Grybauskaitė said, commenting on decisions of some EU countries to reintroduce border controls.

"Last year was the year we had to make decision. Europe was slow. We were quarrelling and competing, who was more pro-European and showed more solidarity, all the while we were too slow making decisions and implementing them. But decisions were made eventually.

"We decided to step up protections of external borders, ensure border control, set up a European service for border and coast protection, appoint people from Lithuania, sort out migrant return and readmission procedures with third countries like Turkey and African states. Decisions have been made, but they still have to be fully implemented, therefore we have to talk about managing legal migration.

"As to illegal migration, there is nothing to talk about here. No documents - no asylum. If you are not registered or resist registration - no rights and guarantees for you. These principles must stand, they are legitimate and correct. Those who come to Europe must follow the rules, therefore we must start with protecting external borders and implementing all the decisions," Grybauskaitė believes.

Stricter screenings of migrants coming to Europe is inevitable, the Lithuanian president says.

"We will have to work with third countries: Turkey, African states. We must help them, give assistance to tent towns near the critical zones so that people do not have to take risks and cross into Europe. We must influence peace talks in Syria and other countries, so that there are no conflicts, no poverty and famine.

"We must work in zones around Europe. Integrating people inside Europe is much more difficult and expensive than helping them in or near their own countries. I think this is the direction we will continue to work. Such is Lithuania's official position. Many of our neighbours have similar positions," Grybauskaitė said.

In addition to several EU countries reintroducing border controls, Sweden recently said it would deport as many as 80,000 failed asylum seekers over several years.

In neighbouring Denmark, meanwhile, the government this week approved legislation to seize the valuables of refugees in the hope of limiting the influx of migrants.

Greece has heard criticism from the European Commission for failing to control the external frontier of Europe's passport-free Schengen zone.

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