Tuesday, December 7

Baltic leaders urge EU to ‘hold Belarus accountable for human trafficking’

The presidents of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have urged the international community to hold the “Lukashenko regime accountable for human trafficking” during a joint press conference in Vilnius on Monday.

Commenting on the current migration crisis on the border with Belarus and Poland, the leaders of the Baltic countries called for a tightening of the EU’s asylum policy and urged the so far reluctant EU executive to provide “adequate financial support from the EU to build physical barriers and infrastructure. ” .

“We can see how the situation on the Lithuanian border is deteriorating. This situation requires immediate solutions and actions at European and international level. The growing threat on the border with Belarus is not only a problem for Lithuania and Poland. We are protecting the borders. EU and NATO foreign affairs, “said Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda.

Nausėda added that Lithuania was willing to support Poland if it activated NATO Article 4 to request consultations, which any member state can do if it believes its “territorial integrity, political independence or security” is in danger.

In Brussels, EU foreign ministers met and agreed that existing sanctions against Lukashenko and his allies will be expanded to include individuals or companies that have encouraged border crossings.

After meeting with the ministers, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said that the new sanctions would affect “a fairly significant number” of people and entities for “facilitating illegal border crossings into the EU.”

“By expanding the scope of sanctions we will be able to target those responsible for the exploitation of vulnerable migrants,” added Borrell.

Diplomats said the new sanctions are expected to target about 30 Belarusian officials, the state airline and travel agencies.

Hundreds of migrants found themselves trapped at a border crossing on Monday, unable to move forward or backward between Poland and Belarus.

They had come to believe that the border was open, but their hopes were soon dashed.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has threatened to retaliate over the new sanctions, claims his people are trying to repatriate stranded migrants, but many are refusing to do so.

‘There is no reason’ to believe Lukashenko

“Active work is being done in this area, to convince people, please go home. But nobody wants to go back,” Lukashenko said, after stating that Belarus did not want the border situation to turn into a “conflict.”

But Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis warned that Brussels “had no reason” to believe Lukashenko.

The Belarusian leader also suggested that if Poland does not provide a “humanitarian corridor”, Minsk could bring the migrants to Germany via its state airline Belavia.

“We will send them to Munich on our own planes, if necessary,” Lukashenko added.

Poland’s Interior Ministry said on Monday that Belarusian forces were bringing groups of migrants to the Kuznica border crossing and announced that it would start building a border wall next month.

Belarus’s state border committee rejected the accusation, saying the migrants had “self-organized” and that Belarusian border guards were present to “ensure security.”

Lukashenko repeated warnings that Belarus would defend itself if new sanctions were imposed.

Belarus has faced waves of EU sanctions in response to the repression of the opposition following last year’s presidential elections and Lukashenko’s decision to a Ryanair flight landed in Minsk earlier this year to detain journalist Roman Protasevich.

Lukashenko has so far overcome Belarus’s growing isolation with the help of Moscow, which continues to defend the Belarusian leader.

Repatriation flights for migrants

About 2,000 people are in the migrant camp, including pregnant women and children, according to Belarus.

But Poland says there are between 3,000 and 4,000 migrants at the border. It has refused to allow the migrants in and detained 50 on Sunday after they entered the country.

Warsaw has accused Belarus of preventing migrants from leaving.

Belavia has announced that citizens of Middle Eastern countries were banned from flights from Turkey and the United Arab Emirates at his request.

The Iraqi government said on Monday a first flight to repatriate its citizens who are among the migrants stranded on the border between Belarus and Poland will be organized on Thursday “on a voluntary basis.”

Local police in the Polish region of Podlasie announced that on 15 November four Europeans had been arrested during roadblocks for “assisting with illegal border crossings”.

Aid agencies believe at least 10 migrants have died so far and have warned of a humanitarian crisis unfolding as temperatures drop below freezing.


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