The situation on the Belarusian-Polish border has been tense for days. Migrants hold out in sub-zero temperatures. Belarus, Iraq and Germany are now reacting with different measures.
According to the ruler Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus is trying to return migrants on the Belarusian-Polish border to their home countries. “Active work is being done to convince people to please return home. But nobody wants to return,” said Lukashenko on Monday, according to the state news agency Belta. Belarus also wants “no border conflict” with Poland.
The Iraqi government has announced the first flight to return migrants to the Belarusian-Polish border. Iraqi citizens could return to their homeland on Thursday on a “voluntary” basis, Foreign Office spokesman Ahmed al-Sahaf said on Iraqi television on Monday night.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has meanwhile announced further EU sanctions against Belarus in the dispute over migrants systematically deported to the EU. “We are still far from the end of the spiral of sanctions,” said Maas on Monday before the EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels. Unfortunately, the situation on the Belarusian-Polish border has not improved, but has deteriorated. The EU foreign ministers are discussing new sanctions, for example against Belarusian officials who are said to be involved in the smuggled people criticized. Maas also did not rule out economic sanctions against the Eastern European country.
Maas also warned airlines flying migrants to Belarus. He can no longer rule out the withdrawal of landing and overflight rights of the EU states if airlines take part in the smuggling organized by the Belarusian leadership. The fact that Turkish Airlines changed its practice at the request of the EU shows that things can also be different.
Even after a week in the cold, thousands of migrants are still waiting for help in the border area between Poland and Belarus. The Belarusian state news agency Belta again published photos of people warming up by campfires in makeshift camps on Monday. The migrants, who are said to have been pushed into the border area by Belarusian security forces, persist in the forest despite freezing temperatures. Several times larger groups tried to break through the fence in the direction of Poland.
The EU accuses the authoritarian Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko of smuggling people in from crisis areas and then pushing them towards the EU’s external border. Poland’s border guards recently expressed fears that Belarusian security forces were preparing the migrants to break through the barrier. The rumor had apparently spread in the camp that the border would be opened at the beginning of the week and people would be allowed to continue to Germany. Both Poland and the federal government officially denied this.