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Oct 20, 2021
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What’s going on between Belarus and the European Union

In Minsk, there are more and more people from Asia and Africa who are ready to storm the European borders.

The situation with migrants on the border of Belarus and the EU countries can turn into a disaster. The reluctance of Brussels to sit down at the negotiating table with Minsk and the determination of the Belarusian authorities to go to the end in confrontation have already led to the fact that thousands of migrants were taken hostage. In the EU, accusations of “hybrid aggression” are increasingly heard not only against Belarus, but also against Russia. The problem has grown from a humanitarian to a political one.

The migration crisis began with the decision of the Belarusian authorities to stop curbing the flow of illegal migrants towards the EU. This was a response to the sanctions that the EU imposed against Belarus after the 2020 presidential elections. Minsk did not hide the fact that the abandonment of the previous migration policy is an attempt to punish the presumptuous Europeans, and first of all Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. At the same time, the official Minsk has no serious instruments of influence on European politics. Apart from the fight against illegal migration and drugs, we can only talk about the transit of Belarusian exports through the Baltic countries. The rest of the EU does not depend on Belarus in any way.

Despite this, the Belarusian authorities did not stand idly by to observe the hostile policy of the EU and decided to strike in several directions at once. Belarus has begun moving its exports from the ports of Lithuania and Latvia to the seaports of Russia and has suspended its participation in the Eastern Partnership initiative. She also closed her eyes to the flow of refugees towards the European Union. And if the first two steps of Minsk did not cause much alarm in the EU, then the issue of migrants turned into a headache not only for neighboring countries.

First, Lithuania started talking about the increased flow of illegal immigrants, then Latvia, then Poland. On the border with Belarus, a record number of daily attempts to illegally cross it by refugees from Asian and African countries began to be recorded. All attempts to stop the flow were unsuccessful. Warsaw, Vilnius and Riga introduced a state of emergency on the border territories, announced the start of construction of a fence on the border with Belarus, demanded financial assistance from the EU and initiated tougher measures of pressure on Belarus. Today they are calling for additional sanctions against Minsk, primarily against the Belavia airline. The EU believes that the Belarusian air carrier, together with tour operators, facilitates illegal migration by transporting refugees to Belarus to storm the EU border with the assistance of the Belarusian border services. On October 18, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said at the EU Council: “Lukashenka is none other than the head of the state network of carriers of illegal migrants”

The reluctance of European partners to seek common ground forced Minsk to go even further. The republic adopted a law on the suspension of the Agreement with the EU, according to which Belarus had to accept back its citizens if they did not have the right to stay in the European Union, or citizens of third countries who illegally entered the EU from the republic. Minsk came to an understanding: it makes no sense to comply with the agreements with Brussels, which has ceased to do so.

However, there is no common position in the EU regarding further actions. According to Josep Borrell, Brussels is ready to punish Minsk for creating a migration crisis, but no decisions are being made, since there is no agreement in the European Union. The only thing that unites most European politicians is the recognition of Lukashenka’s “hybrid aggression”, which Russia allegedly stands behind. The Baltic countries and Poland stubbornly insist on the Russian trail in the migration crisis.

The consequences of the migration crisis are also visible in the rest of Europe. In mid-October, the German federal police reported that since the beginning of August, over 4.3 thousand illegal immigrants from Iraq, Syria and Iran have arrived in Germany through the territory of Belarus and Poland. And Vilnius and Warsaw began shamelessly squeezing refugees back to Belarus. Poland passed a law to build a fence on the border and legalized the expulsion of refugees. Since October, migrants who illegally cross the border, detained on the spot, must leave Polish territory. This caused a wave of protests in the world.

At the end of September, PACE condemned the trend towards restricting the right to seek asylum and “The practice of pushing migrants and asylum seekers to third countries”and also recalled the obligation of the EU member states to comply with the principle of non-refoulement and the prohibition on the collective expulsion of foreigners. Riga, Vilnius and Warsaw were obliged to “provide the necessary assistance to people in need of protection, paying special attention to families with small children, unaccompanied minors and people with disabilities.” In fact, this statement was a victory for Belarus in the international arena.

However, neither the PACE resolutions, nor the UN statements, nor the rallies in the EU countries can affect the general position of the EU in relation to Belarus. Migrants for some Western countries have become an instrument of political games and replenishment of the budget at the expense of the pan-European piggy bank. In such conditions, one cannot expect a quick end to the migration crisis.

The situation could get out of hand. Despite the fact that the EU achieved the cessation of air flights from Iraq to Minsk, this did not affect the flow of migrants arriving in the republic. In the Belarusian capital, there are more and more people from Asia and Africa who are ready to storm the European border every day. They do not just walk around Minsk or wait for “guides” at the airport. They organize parking on the streets, spend the night in underground passages, at bus stops. The Belarusian authorities have already stopped issuing visas at the Minsk airport to citizens of Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Yemen, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria. The migration crisis, which was supposed to be a “punishment” for the European Union, is beginning to negatively affect Belarus.

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