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Asylum and Migration Programme of the Lithuanian Red Cross (LRC)

Inventaire des pratiques

Asylum and Migration Programme of the Lithuanian Red Cross (LRC)

Objectifs du PMM

Principes directeurs du Pacte mondial*

*All practices are to uphold the ten guiding principles of the GCM. This practice particularly exemplifies these listed principles.

Objectifs de développement durable (ODD)

Dates

2021 - 2022

Type de pratique

Project/Programme

Dernier contenu

Régions:

Sous-région:

Locale:

Lithuanian border crossing points and in accommodation and detention centres for foreigners, and prisons.

Résumé

In 2021, political tensions between Lithuania and Belarus flared, precipitating a crisis at the borders during which more than 4 000 migrants largely from the Middle East and South Asia were stranded facing inadequate food, water, clothing, or shelter to cope with the difficult conditions and harsh weather. The politically motivated standoff between the governments of Belarus and Lithuania, combined with unfavourable views towards migrants common in both countries created a highly challenging and politically charged environment in which migrants faced significant risks. As the Lithuanian Red Cross had operated a migration program since 1997 and had agreements with various institutions, it was prepared to take action and respond to the needs of migrants. When the crisis began in June 2021, the Ministry of the Interior of Lithuania initially declined the support of the Lithuanian Red Cross. Therefore, during this month, the Lithuanian Red Cross invited other national organisations (including Food Bank, the Order of Malta, and Caritas Lithuania) to join efforts and to establish an Operations Centre together to respond to the humanitarian needs of the people who had entered Lithuania. Several months later in August, the Red Cross began cooperating with different ministries on the issue of the large number of people in the country, as the government recognised the Red Cross as a significant stakeholder leading the humanitarian response to the migrants. As part of its response to the situation, the Lithuanian Red Cross provided humanitarian assistance in the form of non-food items, medicine, and food, as well as mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS). Through the support of UNHCR, the Lithuanian Red Cross also provided monitoring and legal assistance. The Red Cross had mobile teams who were going onto sites where migrants were present and identifying protection issues. Each mobile team contained at least one psychologist who went to centres to provide psychological assistance. The Lithuanian Red Cross sought to collect data on the sex and age of migrants, and to communicate that certain groups such as children and women were presenting with vulnerabilities. The Lithuanian Red Cross also developed thematic reports documenting issues around access to healthcare, access to information, and the situation of women, minors, and LGBTQI+ individuals. These report findings were shared and discussed with institutions, and in some situations, this helped to move vulnerable people (such as LGBTQI+ individuals) into different, safe accommodation. However, not all State stakeholders had a protection mindset and they cast doubt on whether these individuals were truly in need of specialised support.

Organisation(s) de mise en œuvre

Maître d'œuvre principal

Lithuanian Red Cross

Partenaires impliqués

Lithuanian Red Cross

Initiative de partenariat/multipartite

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees - UNHCR
Government of Lithuania - State Border Guard Service, Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour
Refugee Reception Centre
Caritas
Artscape

Bénéfice et impact

The humanitarian actions taken by the Lithuanian Red Cross can be seen as lifesaving primarily through the essential MHPSS activities provided. The mobile teams were deployed to centres to provide psychological assistance, and during these visits they encountered people attempting to commit suicide and provided support to prevent people from ending their lives. Similarly, the Lithuanian Red Cross organised occupational and recreational activities for the people in detention--including sports, language courses, and opportunities for people to practise professional tasks they had done in their home countries such as baking, cooking, and cutting hair--in order to prevent them from falling into despair while remaining under difficult situations. While recreational activities were criticised by some as light, the Lithuanian Red Cross saw this as essential in helping people get through the experience without succumbing to severe despair. The humanitarian actions taken by the Lithuanian Red Cross can be seen as lifesaving primarily through the essential MHPSS activities provided. The mobile teams were deployed to centres to provide psychological assistance, and during these visits they encountered people attempting to commit suicide and provided support to prevent people from ending their lives. Similarly, the Lithuanian Red Cross organised occupational and recreational activities for the people in detention--including sports, language courses, and opportunities for people to practise professional tasks they had done in their home countries such as baking, cooking, and cutting hair--in order to prevent them from falling into despair while remaining under difficult situations. While recreational activities were criticised by some as light, the Lithuanian Red Cross saw this as essential in helping people get through the experience without succumbing to severe despair.

Principales leçons

A major challenge related to the different perceptions of the migrants and asylum-seekers present in the country: the Lithuanian authorities were promoting a securitised narrative about the migrants and depicting them as irregular economic migrants rather than “legitimate” asylum-seekers, while the Lithuanian Red Cross was promoting the idea that the people were present in the country and had needs, and it was therefore necessary to follow procedures around the establishment of reception centres. Additionally, there were challenges related to the mandates of different State institutions, as Lithuania had a double system under which the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour and the Ministry of the Interior both were mandated to handle the situation. The Lithuanian Red Cross emphasised the vulnerabilities of the people with the Lithuanian authorities, even if these vulnerabilities were not immediately evident. As a result of this crisis, the Lithuanian State learned the importance of proper registration of arrivals; in the first three months of the 2021 crisis, the State was not registering arrivals, resulting in a lack of data.

Recommandations(if the practice is to be replicated)

This crisis also underlined the importance of training staff and volunteers in protection, safe referral, and how to effectively interact with people in despair. Many teams were not equipped to handle these situations and the crisis setting made it difficult to set aside time to train. Additionally, staff and volunteers needed psychosocial support and self-care as they were confronted with challenging and intense situations, and sometimes felt helpless. Since this crisis in 2021, the Lithuanian Red Cross has established the LRC academy to provide training for staff and volunteers, and, in 2023, established a new MHPSS programme to support both affected people and teams.

Additionally, the Red Cross emphasises that humanitarian and civil society organisations should be included in the response, as well as in disaster preparedness and planning. Formal agreements with State institutions are important to facilitate this.

Finally, the Lithuanian Red Cross stresses that having adequate cultural mediators--individuals who are trained and can provide interpretation--of both genders in advance is important.

Innovation

This practice is innovative in the sense that the Lithuanian Red Cross was able to operate in a challenging and highly politically charged environment throughout the crisis. The Lithuanian Red Cross was proactive in its response at the beginning of the crisis, mobilising civil society partners and coordinating services while advocating that the government meet its responsibilities vis à vis providing adequate reception and protection. Additionally, the experience demonstrated the need for more capacity-building of RC staff and volunteers in advance of future crises, inspiring the creation of the Red Cross Academy so as to proactively equip the RC personnel for future actions.

Date de soumission:

28 septembre 2023

Asylum and Migration Programme of the Lithuanian Red Cross (LRC)

Objectifs du PMM

Dates:

2021 - 2022

Type de pratique:

Project/Programme

Dernier contenu

Régions:

Sous-région:

Locale:

Lithuanian border crossing points and in accommodation and detention centres for foreigners, and prisons.

Résumé

In 2021, political tensions between Lithuania and Belarus flared, precipitating a crisis at the borders during which more than 4 000 migrants largely from the Middle East and South Asia were stranded facing inadequate food, water, clothing, or shelter to cope with the difficult conditions and harsh weather. The politically motivated standoff between the governments of Belarus and Lithuania, combined with unfavourable views towards migrants common in both countries created a highly challenging and politically charged environment in which migrants faced significant risks. As the Lithuanian Red Cross had operated a migration program since 1997 and had agreements with various institutions, it was prepared to take action and respond to the needs of migrants. When the crisis began in June 2021, the Ministry of the Interior of Lithuania initially declined the support of the Lithuanian Red Cross. Therefore, during this month, the Lithuanian Red Cross invited other national organisations (including Food Bank, the Order of Malta, and Caritas Lithuania) to join efforts and to establish an Operations Centre together to respond to the humanitarian needs of the people who had entered Lithuania. Several months later in August, the Red Cross began cooperating with different ministries on the issue of the large number of people in the country, as the government recognised the Red Cross as a significant stakeholder leading the humanitarian response to the migrants. As part of its response to the situation, the Lithuanian Red Cross provided humanitarian assistance in the form of non-food items, medicine, and food, as well as mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS). Through the support of UNHCR, the Lithuanian Red Cross also provided monitoring and legal assistance. The Red Cross had mobile teams who were going onto sites where migrants were present and identifying protection issues. Each mobile team contained at least one psychologist who went to centres to provide psychological assistance. The Lithuanian Red Cross sought to collect data on the sex and age of migrants, and to communicate that certain groups such as children and women were presenting with vulnerabilities. The Lithuanian Red Cross also developed thematic reports documenting issues around access to healthcare, access to information, and the situation of women, minors, and LGBTQI+ individuals. These report findings were shared and discussed with institutions, and in some situations, this helped to move vulnerable people (such as LGBTQI+ individuals) into different, safe accommodation. However, not all State stakeholders had a protection mindset and they cast doubt on whether these individuals were truly in need of specialised support.

Organisation(s) de mise en œuvre

Maître d'œuvre principal:

Lithuanian Red Cross

Partenaires impliqués:

Lithuanian Red Cross

Initiative de partenariat/multipartite:

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees - UNHCR
Government of Lithuania - State Border Guard Service, Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour
Refugee Reception Centre
Caritas
Artscape

Bénéfice et impact

The humanitarian actions taken by the Lithuanian Red Cross can be seen as lifesaving primarily through the essential MHPSS activities provided. The mobile teams were deployed to centres to provide psychological assistance, and during these visits they encountered people attempting to commit suicide and provided support to prevent people from ending their lives. Similarly, the Lithuanian Red Cross organised occupational and recreational activities for the people in detention--including sports, language courses, and opportunities for people to practise professional tasks they had done in their home countries such as baking, cooking, and cutting hair--in order to prevent them from falling into despair while remaining under difficult situations. While recreational activities were criticised by some as light, the Lithuanian Red Cross saw this as essential in helping people get through the experience without succumbing to severe despair. The humanitarian actions taken by the Lithuanian Red Cross can be seen as lifesaving primarily through the essential MHPSS activities provided. The mobile teams were deployed to centres to provide psychological assistance, and during these visits they encountered people attempting to commit suicide and provided support to prevent people from ending their lives. Similarly, the Lithuanian Red Cross organised occupational and recreational activities for the people in detention--including sports, language courses, and opportunities for people to practise professional tasks they had done in their home countries such as baking, cooking, and cutting hair--in order to prevent them from falling into despair while remaining under difficult situations. While recreational activities were criticised by some as light, the Lithuanian Red Cross saw this as essential in helping people get through the experience without succumbing to severe despair.

Principales leçons

A major challenge related to the different perceptions of the migrants and asylum-seekers present in the country: the Lithuanian authorities were promoting a securitised narrative about the migrants and depicting them as irregular economic migrants rather than “legitimate” asylum-seekers, while the Lithuanian Red Cross was promoting the idea that the people were present in the country and had needs, and it was therefore necessary to follow procedures around the establishment of reception centres. Additionally, there were challenges related to the mandates of different State institutions, as Lithuania had a double system under which the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour and the Ministry of the Interior both were mandated to handle the situation. The Lithuanian Red Cross emphasised the vulnerabilities of the people with the Lithuanian authorities, even if these vulnerabilities were not immediately evident. As a result of this crisis, the Lithuanian State learned the importance of proper registration of arrivals; in the first three months of the 2021 crisis, the State was not registering arrivals, resulting in a lack of data.

Recommandations(if the practice is to be replicated)

This crisis also underlined the importance of training staff and volunteers in protection, safe referral, and how to effectively interact with people in despair. Many teams were not equipped to handle these situations and the crisis setting made it difficult to set aside time to train. Additionally, staff and volunteers needed psychosocial support and self-care as they were confronted with challenging and intense situations, and sometimes felt helpless. Since this crisis in 2021, the Lithuanian Red Cross has established the LRC academy to provide training for staff and volunteers, and, in 2023, established a new MHPSS programme to support both affected people and teams.

Additionally, the Red Cross emphasises that humanitarian and civil society organisations should be included in the response, as well as in disaster preparedness and planning. Formal agreements with State institutions are important to facilitate this.

Finally, the Lithuanian Red Cross stresses that having adequate cultural mediators--individuals who are trained and can provide interpretation--of both genders in advance is important.

Principes directeurs du Pacte mondial*

*All practices are to uphold the ten guiding principles of the GCM. This practice particularly exemplifies these listed principles.

Innovation

This practice is innovative in the sense that the Lithuanian Red Cross was able to operate in a challenging and highly politically charged environment throughout the crisis. The Lithuanian Red Cross was proactive in its response at the beginning of the crisis, mobilising civil society partners and coordinating services while advocating that the government meet its responsibilities vis à vis providing adequate reception and protection. Additionally, the experience demonstrated the need for more capacity-building of RC staff and volunteers in advance of future crises, inspiring the creation of the Red Cross Academy so as to proactively equip the RC personnel for future actions.

Objectifs de développement durable (ODD)

Date de soumission:

28 septembre 2023

*Toutes les références au Kosovo doivent être comprises dans le contexte de la résolution 1244 (1999) du Conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies.