Migrant crisis in Belarus: repatriation to Iraq, European discussions, where are we with the situation at the EU borders?

the essential This Monday 15 November, the foreign ministers of the European Union must meet to expand the sanctions imposed in Belarus. Discussions that take place following its crackdown on opponents of the Lukashenko regime.

Thousands of migrants from the Middle East camp on the European Union-Belarus border, a source of deadlock in relations between the Union and the United States on one side, and on the other Belarus supported by Russia, his ally. Westerners accuse the Belarusian regime of Alexander Lukashenko of deliberately orchestrating the crisis by encouraging migrants to come to the country and then bringing them to the border.

Lukashenko, who has been in power for nearly 30 years and who has led a bloody crackdown on his opponents, denies the accusations and accuses the West. Russian President Vladimir Putin also rejected accusations of involvement in the crisis and urged the EU to address Minsk directly.

Repatriation to Iraq

The Iraqi government announced the organization this Thursday 18 November of a first repatriation flight of Iraqi migrants stranded at the border between Belarus and Poland “on the basis volunteering “.

“Iraq will carry out a first flight for those who wish to return voluntarily on 18 of this month” from Belarus, said Ahmed al-Sahaf, spokesman for the ministry Iraqi Foreign Minister, on Iraqi public television on the night from Sunday to Monday.

Discussions expected in Brussels

The EU is ready to apply new sanctions against Belarus, after the first high-level contact between Brussels and Minsk since the start of the migration crisis on the EU’s eastern border. After a telephone interview with the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell, Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei warned that any sanction targeting his country would be “hopeless” and “counterproductive”. According to Jospeh Borrell, “the humanitarian situation is precarious” on the Polish-Belarusian border. “The current situation is unacceptable and must end. People must not be used as weapons,” Borrell said in a tweet.

European Union foreign ministers are due to meet on Monday to broaden the sanctions imposed on Belarus following its crackdown on opponents of the Lukashenko regime.

European Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said ministers would authorize sanctions against “all those involved in smuggling migrants to Belarus”, including airlines, travel agencies and government officials. “Lukashenko was wrong. He believed that by retaliating in this way he was going to twist our arm and have the sanctions canceled. The opposite is happening,” Joseph Borrell told the Journal du Dimanche, a weekly French.

Following pressure from European diplomats, Turkey has now banned Iraqis, Syrians and Yemenis from visiting Belarus. The private Syrian airline Cham Wings Airlines has also halted its flights to Minsk.

“Tired and sick” migrants

According to the authorities, the largest migrant camp, near the Belarusian village of Brouzgi, gathers around 2 000 people, including pregnant women and children.

Contacted by AFP by phone, Bakr, an Iraqi national of 28, said he had been at the border for six days after traveling to Minsk from Baghdad via Dubai, as part of a trip organized through a tour operator.

“We are all tired and sick,” he insisted.

Sangar, a truck driver in his thirties from Iraqi Kurdistan, said he was at the border with his wife and three children, including an eight-year-old boy who had both legs amputated. “I wish to go to any country that would accept to take my children,” he said.

The Belarusian authorities have provided the camp with aid, tents and heaters, a measure that could presage a semi-permanent presence at the border.

Warsaw accuses Belarus

Warsaw refuses to let migrants pass and accuses Belarus of preventing them from returning home. Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski on Saturday reported a rumor circulating among migrants that Poland would allow them to pass through on Monday and that coaches would come from Germany to pick them up.

The government reacted with a text message sent to all foreign cellphones along the border, denouncing “a total lie and nonsense!”. German diplomacy has also denied the rumor. Despite the difficulties, groups of migrants regularly cross the border but are often arrested and many are sent back to Belarus.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, for his part, called on NATO to take “concrete measures” in the face of the crisis. “It is no longer enough for us to publicly express our concern – what is needed now are concrete steps and the involvement of the whole alliance,” he said in an interview with the Polish agency PAP.

Washington announced that Secretary of State Antony Blinken had spoken with his Polish counterpart Zbigniew Rau. “The actions of the Lukashenko regime threaten security, sow division and aim to distract from Russian activities on the border with Ukraine,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said. Mr Blinken warned of Russian troop movements near Ukraine and warned Moscow of an invasion similar to the one in Crimea seven years ago.

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