Tension at the Belarus-European Union (EU) border escalated Monday, November 15, as Poland announced it would start erecting a wall on its border with Belarus in December. .
“The business that we must carry out is an absolutely strategic and priority investment for the security of the nation and its citizens”, declared the Polish interior minister, Mariusz Kaminski. The structure, which is expected to be delivered in the first half of 2022, will cost around 353 million euros and is expected to span 180 kilometers – roughly half the total length of the border between Poland and Belarus. Parliament had given its approval to this construction during the last month.
Thousands of migrants, mostly from the Middle East, have been camping for several days on the border between Belarus and the EU, under freezing temperatures, and the latter accuses Minsk of having organized these migratory movements, by issuing visas and by chartering flights, in revenge for the Western sanctions imposed on the regime of Alexander Lukashenko last year after the brutal repression of opponents.
Putin and Macron “agree on a de-escalation”
In this showdown, Mr. Lukashenko seemed, Monday, to play the card of appeasement. He claimed Belarus was trying to get migrants camping on the border between his country and the EU home, as the Twenty-Seven prepare to toughen sanctions against his country. “We are ready, as we have always done, to put them all on planes (…) who will bring them home, he said, according to Belta state agency. Active work is being done to convince these people, “please come home,” but no one wants to come back. ”
“I want to stress this, we don’t want any conflict at our border. It would be absolutely damaging for us ”, also declared Mr. Lukashenko, still according to Belta, accusing in parallel Poland “To need” of this crisis because of its “Internal problems” and tensions with its EU partners.
Russia was keen to support Belarus: “To throw all the responsibility on Lukashenko, on the Belarusian side, it is completely wrong”Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters lamenting that the EU “Ignore the European ideals of humanism” as thousands of migrants are stranded in the cold in makeshift tents on the border with Poland.
At the same time, pressure on the Russian and Belarusian leaders has increased, with telephone talks between French President Emmanuel Macron and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, as well as between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. This is the first meeting between Lukashenko and a European leader since his regime’s crackdown on a protest movement last year. According to the Elysee Palace, Mr. Putin, questioned about the migrant crisis on the Belarusian border, promised to” talk about “ to Alexander Lukashenko.
Tightening of European sanctions
The EU, which sanctioned the crackdown on the demonstrations following the disputed re-election of Alexander Lukashenko in August 2020, has now accused him of promoting a retaliatory migration crisis for several months and is preparing new sanctions. A meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Twenty-Seven was held on this subject Monday in Brussels. The EU intends to expand sanctions against Belarus by targeting airlines, travel agencies and various actors involved in the transfer of migrants, its High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, confirmed on Monday.
The latter specified: “We have agreed on the adoption of a new set of sanctions (…). It will be developed in the next few days. “ These sanctions will affect “A significant number of people” and entities, he said, without specifying their number or identity. The head of European diplomacy said Monday morning to have contacted the Belarusian foreign minister on Sunday to inform him that the situation on the border with Poland was “Totally unacceptable”.
Likewise, on Monday the United States said ” to prepare “ new sanctions against Belarus “In coordination with the European Union”, to denounce the exploitation “Inhuman” migratory flows. “We will continue to demand accounts” in the power of Mr. Lukashenko “For his persistent attacks on democracy, human rights and international standards”, warned the spokesman for American diplomacy, Ned Price, to the press.
Interrupted flights and flight bans
In this context, Belarusian airline Belavia announced on Sunday that Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans and Yemenis were now banned from flying from Dubai to Belarus.
The Iraqi government announced Thursday the organization of a first repatriation flight for Iraqi migrants stranded at the border. “Iraq will make a first flight for those who wish to return voluntarily on the 18th of this month”, thus declared the spokesman of the ministry for foreign affairs, Ahmed Al-Sahaf, on the Iraqi public television in the night of Sunday to Monday. He did not specify how many people would board this Minsk-Baghdad flight. But Iraq “Identified 571 Iraqis” stranded at the Polish-Belarusian border, and who said they were ready to return “Voluntarily” Iraq, explained Ahmed Al-Sahaf.
Following pressure from European diplomats, Turkey banned Iraqis, Syrians and Yemenis from visiting Belarus. The private Syrian company Cham Wings Airlines has also stopped its flights to Minsk.
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Migrant crisis in Belarus: Poland announces construction of border wall