Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Belarus set to help migrants home as sanctions loom

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Belarusian officials want to send migrants massed at its borders with the EU back to their home countries.

This is a move that could defuse a crisis with the EU, but spark stand-offs with people unwilling to return to war zones.

“We are actively working on convincing these people to head home,’’ said President Alexander Lukashenko in comments to the Belta news agency.

Lukashenko stands accused of putting the migrants in this situation in the first place, allegedly as part of an attempt to put pressure on the EU for refusing to recognise his re-election last year.

He said it was a process that EU officials said was bogged down in trickery and violence.

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He denies the EU’s allegations that the people were allowed entry from places like Afghanistan and the Middle East and then transported to the EU border.

Most of the attention has been focused on the Polish border, where officials have erected fences and set up controls to push back the migrants.

The migrants had reportedly not been allowed to go back by Belarusian forces, leaving thousands trapped in a no man’s land with dwindling resources as winter weather creeps in.

Lukashenko said that it was not clear if the situation can be unwound.

“Nobody wants to go back. These people are very stubborn.

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“We offered to fly them back with the country’s Belavia air carrier,’’ he told Belta.

EU ministers were meeting to discuss new sanctions on Belarus in light of the border crisis.

Lukashenko had promised new, unspecified, retaliation should more sanctions come into being.

“We will defend ourselves,’’ he said.

He also noted that the presence of the migrants was causing tensions in his country, which he said could not be allowed.

dpa/NAN

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