Lithuania: Asylum seekers unlawfully detained file class action for redress

On Thursday 27 June, with the support of Amnesty International, a group of 24 people filed a class action requesting compensation for their prolonged arbitrary detention in Lithuania in 2021/22, following the declaration of an ‘emergency’ prescribing the automatic detention of people irregularly crossing the border with Belarus. The case was presented to the Regional Administrative Court, two years after Amnesty International denounced the arbitrary detention of thousands of people in Lithuania.

“At least four thousand men, women and children were unlawfully detained for months on end, without any possibility to challenge the decision before a judge. This represented a betrayal of the rule of law of seismic proportions, imposing tremendous suffering on people who were looking for international protection and dignified treatment,” said Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Europe, Dinushika Dissanayake.

In June 2023, the Lithuanian Constitutional Court ruled that the law imposing automatic detention of every single person seeking asylum during the initial six months period violated the right to liberty, as guaranteed by the Lithuanian Constitution. Based on the ruling, all those affected should be entitled to reparations for the months of suffering they were subjected to. However, the Lithuanian government has so far failed to set up a mechanism to provide them with redress.

“The claimants suffered multiple injustices at the hands of the Lithuanian authorities. By presenting this legal challenge, they are demanding justice for the time that was stolen from them and their children in detention. If successful, the case will provide an avenue for reparation not only to them, but also to others who will hopefully be allowed to join the class action.

This will send a strong signal to Lithuania and other EU member states attempting similar practices that they cannot shy away from their human rights responsibilities.

Dinushika Dissanayake, Deputy Regional Director for Europe

“The case is also a damning indictment of the European Commission’s credibility as ‘guardian of the EU Treaties’. This patent violation of EU law by the Lithuanian authorities is yet to give rise to the launch of infringement proceedings, three years later.”


Following the declaration of an ‘emergency’ in July 2021, the Lithuanian government arbitrarily detained over four thousand people from Iraq, Syria, Sri Lanka, India, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, and various other countries, many of them for over a year. During the first six months of detention, they did not have any possibility to challenge their detention, in breach of international and EU law, as well as the Lithuanian Constitution.

Depriving detainees of legal safeguards against arbitrary detention, authorities described such detention as ‘temporary accommodation’ and an ‘alternative to detention’. People were forced to live in squalid, prison-like centres for months on end, subjected to physical and psychological abuse while being denied access to fair asylum procedures.

Lithuania also adopted legislation to legalise pushbacks, the unlawful practice of summary and often violent returns at the border, which breaches international and EU law. While the vast majority of people held in detention centres were eventually released, mostly in 2022, pushbacks continue.

Amnesty International has supported a group of 24 claimants, many of whom remained in unlawful detention until 2022, in initiating the case. Claimants are presenting this claim as a class action, requesting the Regional Administrative Court to also enable all other people who suffered the same violation in Lithuania to join.