Belarus Says Over 100 Refugees Repatriated By Air | Refugees News
Minsk says more repatriation flights will take place on Tuesday as the border crisis continues.
According to Belarusian authorities, more than 100 refugees have left Belarus by plane, and more people are expected to leave.
The group of 118 people left on Monday from the country’s national airport in the capital, Minsk, the head of the Migration Department of the Belarusian Interior Ministry, Alexei Begun, told the official BELTA news agency on Tuesday.
Begun said another group was due to leave the country on Tuesday, signaling apparently greater efforts to repatriate the thousands of people stranded in the country.
He did not give more details on how many people were due or where they were headed, but said embassies in several countries – including Syria and Iraq – were organizing repatriation flights for stranded nationals. in Belarus.
Begun said Belarusian authorities are “helping” those who wish to return to their country of origin and working with the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to resolve the situation.
The migration crisis started in August and has intensified recently, with thousands of people traveling to Belarus in the hope of entering the European Union, only to face closed borders.
Warsaw and its Western allies accuse Minsk of luring people, mostly from the Middle East, to Belarus and directing them to the EU via Poland and other EU member states, Lithuania and Latvia.
Critics say Belarus is trying to destabilize Europe in response to Western sanctions imposed on President Alexander Lukashenko’s government for alleged human rights violations following a contested August 2020 election that gave it a sixth term .
The 67-year-old said his government could not help resolve the situation unless EU sanctions were lifted.
EU rejects Minsk’s proposal to end the crisis
Last week, Lukashenko presented a plan whereby the EU member state, Germany, would take in 2,000 people who are currently in Belarus; 5,000 more are said to be sent back to their countries of origin.
A first group of 431 people was flown back to Iraq last week.
But Lukashenko’s proposal was categorically rejected by Berlin and the EU’s executive body, the European Commission.
Aid agencies say up to 13 people have died in the border region, with many suffer in cold, humid forests with little food or water as winter sets in.
Poland has accused Belarusian forces in recent days of continuing to transport people to the border, although Minsk cleared major camps along the border of barbed wire last week.
Lukashenko warned of further escalation on Monday, saying: “We have to reach out to the Poles, all Poles, and show them that we are not barbarians, that we do not want a confrontation. We don’t need it. Because we understand that if we go too far, war is inevitable.
Russia, ally and creditor of Minsk, renewed its support for its neighbor following the remarks of Lukashenko, the secretary of the Security Council of the country declaring on Tuesday that Belarus was “the ally and the closest strategic partner of Moscow” .
Nikolai Patrushev said Russia, along with Belarus, would continue to “respond adequately to provocations, including military ones,” along their borders with other nations.