Lithuania says Belarus is flying in migrants

Under cover of darkness, a group of migrants are detained by Lithuanian border police.

Exhausted, they have crossed over from Belarus.

They are part of a growing number of arrivals, mainly from Africa and the Middle East, entering the European country from Belarus.

Lithuania's Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite has branded the influx as a deliberate act by the Belarusian authorities:

"It is not normal, (it is an) illegal migrant crisis. The situation is a hybrid war against Lithuania. They (the Belarusian government) use illegal migrants against Lithuania, and it is really dangerous."

In response to European Union sanctions, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said in May that his country would no longer prevent migrants from crossing its western border into the EU.

Since then, the number of illegal arrivals has spiked - 799 made the crossing in the first week of July alone.

The Baltic country used to receive no more than 100 migrants a year.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte has accused Belarus of also flying in migrants.

"First is the migration tourism, one might say, because there are travel agencies and direct flights that connect Minsk with Baghdad, for example. And there are agencies, both in Belarus and in other countries, that operate and are attracting tourists - I put that in inverted commas - to Minsk. And we've detained some people who were having actually visas and invitations from Belarus tour operators while entering our country, all of a sudden with passports - that was sort of a rare example, but we saw that. Other source (of migration) is people from African countries, of whom we see a significant number during recent days, they claim to be ex-students or students of some high schools."

Detention centres are filling up and resources are scarce, according the Lithuanian branch of the Red Cross charity.

Lithuania says it will step up border patrols and build a barrier to prevent further arrivals.

Simonyte said Lithuania, a Schengen free travel area member, was also considering imposing border controls with neighbors, to stop migrants traveling on towards Western EU countries.

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