Iraq will be the first repatriation flight this week for the Iraqi immigration organization stranded at the border between Belarus and Poland. Because of the growing humanitarian crisis, the European Union said this was orchestrated by Minsk.
A spokesperson for the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the country will provide voluntary evacuation flights to Baghdad for any citizens stranded in Belarus on Thursday.
EU foreign ministers met on Monday to discuss new sanctions against Belarus. They accused them of deliberately attracting immigrants to its borders as part of a plan to destabilize the EU in retaliation for their support of the Belarusian political opposition.
The European Union’s top diplomat Jose Porrell said before the meeting that the new sanctions may target airlines, travel agencies and others involved in facilitating Belarusian immigration.
Most migrants trying to enter the EU from Belarus are from the Middle East.
These immigrants live in makeshift tent camps and huts built with branches, next to barbed wire fences guarded by thousands of Polish troops. But despite the cold weather, many people said they would not go home.
On Monday, hundreds of migrants gathered at the border crossing between Belarus and Poland near the village of Kuznica. The Polish police stated that these migrants were brought there by the Belarusian army, and they lied that they would be picked up and taken to Germany.
Stanislaw Zaryn, the minister’s spokesperson responsible for coordinating the Polish security services, wrote on Twitter: “This looks like a preparation for another attempt to cross the Polish border by force.”
On Sunday, Borrell discussed the crisis with Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makeyi-this is the European Union since President Alexander Lukashenko violently suppressed protests against its fraudulent re-election last summer. The first high-level meeting in Minsk.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Russian President Vladimir Putin has talked with Lukashenko and German Chancellor Merkel on the situation, hoping that they can talk to each other.
Lukashenko, who refused to discuss post-election suppression with Merkel last year, has repeatedly stated that the EU should negotiate directly with him to end the crisis.
Direct flights from Baghdad to Minsk were suspended in August. Citizens of Iraq, Yemen and Syria stopped travelling through Turkey on Friday. On Saturday, a Syrian private airline suspended flights. On Monday, immigrants were banned from traveling through Dubai.
The European Union’s Borel said on Monday that the measures taken so far have reduced the number of immigrants arriving in Belarus.
As military tensions in Europe escalate, Russia and Belarus conducted joint exercises near the heavily guarded Polish border last week. Lukashenko said on Monday that Minsk is trying to persuade immigrants to return home.
Lukashenko said: “We are doing everything we can to make this camp non-existent, as well as those who want to join the European Union.” “For those who don’t want to do this, we are ready to send them all on the plane. … This will take them home.”
He also stated that if Germany and Poland agree, Belarus is prepared to fly some of these planes to Munich.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that the sanctions being discussed on Monday will strengthen the repression of Belarusian officials last year and the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk in May. Maas said that “severe economic sanctions” against airlines are also “inevitable.”
Lukashenko threatened to respond to sanctions by suspending the supply of natural gas to Europe. But Russia, which supplies natural gas, has stated that it will not change the direction of the flow, adding that any such move by Ske will damage the relationship between the two allies. Moscow also denied any connection with the immigration crisis.