The Situation at Kazitiškis Temporary Camp
30 August 2021
Situation at Kazitiškis Temporary Camp for asylum seekers (Lithuania)
On 2021-08-27 journalist Ewa Wolkanowska-Kolodziej and me jointly visited the temporary camp in Kazitiškis, located 123 kms from Vilnius. This is a small village with about 350 population in Ignalina district municipality of Utena county. More than 120 asylum seekers from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan including men, women, unaccompanied underage, small children, a 4 months old baby and a pregnant woman are located in the building of the two-store old village school, which was out of use since early 2000.
The building is fenced by a two metres high iron enclosure and is guarded by some armed police. None of asylum seekers are allowed to go outside of the guarded area. The only exception is Friday, when the mobile shop visits the camp and asylum seekers are allowed to make shopping. Reportedly they are placed in 8 former classrooms biggest of which is of 6x7 metres area. Each room contains from 7 to 22 people. We were allowed to check three of these rooms, where accordingly lived 22 persons of mixed ages (6 families), 21 persons of mixed ages (3 families) and 7 young single males including an underage).
On the day of our visit the weather was rainy and the clothes washed by hand with the cold water were hanging in the old school’s yard on the strings under the rain. We spent about three hours in the camp talking to a supervisor police and asylum seekers, observed their living conditions, were asked a lot of questions. It seemed we were one of the few outsiders visiting the camp and checking their living conditions. Asylum seekers are isolated during the long time of their stay in this camp with the least minimal living conditions. Anger of being kept in custody conditions makes them worried with the uncertainty they are faced in Lithuania.
When I asked why the window in the corridor of the first floor is broken, a man told about recent unrest, which happened in Kazitiškis, after which three men managed to escape from the camp. Special police troops were involved to stabilize the situation.
Reportedly asylum seekers filled the camp in different times. The first people spent almost two months in Kazitiškis. During our conversation men mainly talked about their security and a bit aggressively attacked us with the questions, concerning the related international standards they should be treated as foreigners asking for asylum. They always were comparing similar conditions with Germany and the USA. Women concerned topics of kid’s going to school, bad sanitary situation, risk of pandemic outburst and permanent nervousness of the camp inhabitants. A young man with tears in his eyes told the story how his brother drove from Finland to meet him in the camp after four year of being departed and did not get permission even to hug him once.
The main challenges asylum seekers face today in Kazitiškis:
· Overcrowded living rooms;
· Full isolation from the outside life;
· Living in the conditions of custody;
· Lack of free Internet;
· Lack of warm water;
· Lack of warm clothes and blankets;
· Dangerous sanitary situation;
· Inobservance of personal security;
· Risk of Covid-19 outburst in the camp.
· Refugees are made to return back to their home countries, when they do not want that;
· They cannot contact lawyers and receive free legal consultations;
· They are kept in uncertainty about the further steps Lithuanian government intends to take concerning them;
· Lithuanian and international community is not informed about the real situation in the temporary refugee camps.
Director, Refugee Council of Lithuania
You can read the impressions from the visit of Ewa Wołkanowska-Kołodziej at https://www.facebook.com/554023573/posts/10161306069103574/