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Tuesday, 28 November 2023
EU to step up sanctions against Belarus in response to escalating migrant crisis
Polish police officers and military, at Belarusian-Polish border on Nov, 9, 2021/Facebook page

The BBC reported officials say, the European Union will step up sanctions against Belarus and those closest to its leader in response to an escalating migrant crisis at its border with Poland.

EU officials say sanctions could target anyone involved in trafficking migrants through Belarus.

The EU has accused Belarus of pushing migrants towards its eastern borders to undermine security, a charge it denies.

On Monday, hundreds of migrants were blocked at a crossing by Polish troops.

A video filmed at the border by the BBC showed migrants sitting down on a road in front of barbed wire and Polish forces in a tense stand-off.

Those migrants came from a large make-shift camp, where hundreds have settled in tents just inside Belarus. They are trapped between Polish guards on one side and Belarusian guards on the other.

Asylum seekers at Belarus border receiving humanitarian aid/Facebook page Asylum seekers at Belarus border receiving humanitarian aid/Facebook page

The Polish border guard said it expected a forced attempt to breach the border, describing the presence of the Belarusian forces in the area as "worrying".

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Since the summer thousands of people, mostly from Iraq, Syria and Yemen, have amassed at Belarus's western border with Poland, enduring freezing conditions in the hope of crossing into the EU.

The EU has accused Belarus of mounting a "hybrid attack" by encouraging thousands of people to cross into Poland and other members states.

European officials have implicated Belarus's authoritarian leader, Alexander Lukashenko, in a scheme to entice migrants with the false promise of easy entry to the EU.

Mr Lukashenko has repeatedly denied that Belarus is sending migrants over the border in revenge for existing EU sanctions.

Those sanctions were imposed in June following the arrest of an opposition activist on board a Ryanair flight that was forced to land in Belarus.

EU foreign ministers are meeting on Monday in Brussels, where they are expected to approve a new package of sanctions against Belarus.

The package could include sanctions against officials within Mr Lukashenko's inner circle and airlines that are flying migrants from the Middle East and elsewhere to Minsk.

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Ahead of a meeting, the German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, said airlines taking migrants to Belarus could be banned from landing in the EU. Mr Maas warned that the EU was far from the end of the spiral of sanctions it could impose.

On Monday, Mr Lukashenko threatened to retaliate against fresh sanctions. He claimed Belarusian authorities were trying to repatriate stranded migrants but many were refusing to go.

The EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said that sanctions would include anybody moving migrants via Belarus to the Polish border, including airlines and travel agencies.

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He said stopping the flow of flights carrying migrants was one solution that was being worked on.

Mr Borrell said: "From the point of view of the inflow, things are coming under control."

Iraq has said it is organising repatriation flights for Iraqi nationals from Belarus, while the United Arab Emirates said it had barred Afghan, Syrian, Yemeni and Iraqi citizens from flights to Minsk.

Source: BBC