Asylum crisis.. Belarus evacuates migrant camps and Poland arrests dozens of infiltrators
The President of Belarus suggested to the German Chancellor that the European Union open a humanitarian corridor that would allow the transfer of 2,000 refugees to Germany, in exchange for Minsk to help return those who wish to return to their countries, which was rejected by Berlin and the European Commission.
Belarusian authorities on Thursday evacuated the main camps where hundreds of refugees were gathering on the border with Poland, in a change that could ease a crisis that has escalated in recent weeks between European countries. Polish forces have arrested 100 asylum-seekers who tried to breach the border.
A spokesman for the Polish border guards said that the camps on the border in western Belarus were completely empty Thursday, but the spokesman said that other groups of migrants appeared elsewhere and were trying to break through the border.
The Belarusian state news agency, Belta, stated that the refugees were transferred to a warehouse in Belarus, far from the border, and it is not yet known what the fate of these refugees will be.
Anadolu Agency reported that the migrants stranded at the border between Belarus and Poland packed their belongings and left the camps they had set up to the logistics center in the border region of Prozzy in the Belarusian city of Grodno.
And last week, many asylum seekers tried to cross the border to enter Poland from Belarus, where there are currently about 4,000 asylum seekers at the border between the two countries, according to the Polish news agency.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had suggested to German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the European Union open a humanitarian corridor that would allow the transfer of 2,000 refugees to Germany, in exchange for Minsk’s assistance in repatriating those who wish to return to their countries. The Belarusian presidency added that about 7,000 are scattered on its territory, including 2,000 refugees on the Polish border.
Berlin and the European Commission rejected Belarus’ proposal to open a humanitarian corridor for 2,000 refugees, while the United States accused the Belarusian authorities of turning migrants into a weapon.
For the second time in 3 days, Lukashenko and Merkel held phone conversations, during which they discussed the refugee crisis, most of whom are from countries in the Middle East. The Belarusian presidency said that Lukashenko and Merkel agreed that “the whole problem will be raised at the level of Belarus and the European Union,” and talked about appointing officials from the two parties to start negotiations immediately.
But Berlin stated that it is a matter of cooperation between Minsk and the European Union to provide humanitarian assistance to refugees stranded at Poland’s borders.
Arrests and accusations
For its part, the Polish authorities arrested 100 asylum seekers who tried to penetrate its borders, and indicated that they recorded more than 500 penetration attempts.
Warsaw accused Minsk of forcing the refugees to throw stones at soldiers and guards to distract them. She added that the Polish Guard issued 31 expulsion notices against people who had already managed to enter, and Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaschak expected that the crisis would continue for months and perhaps more years.
Poland – along with Lithuania and Latvia, which are also neighboring to Belarus – refuse to receive the refugees currently crowded on the Polish border.
The Belarusian authorities had talked the day before yesterday, Wednesday, about negotiations with the European Union, in an effort to resolve the crisis of asylum seekers stranded within its territory in very cold weather, but the European Commission made it clear – in a tweet on Twitter – that it was related to technical talks about the processes of returning asylum seekers seeking to enter the European Union. In cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration and Belarus.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, the European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarcic, said that the crisis on the borders of Poland and Belarus is artificial, and that there is a responsibility on Minsk to take care of the refugees.
Linarcic expressed the European Union’s concern about the suffering of the refugees, and stressed the harnessing of efforts and capabilities to help them. The European Commissioner added to the island that the solution to the refugee crisis lies in returning them to their countries.
In a related context, yesterday evening, Thursday, more than 460 Iraqis arrived at Erbil airport from Belarus, on a plane allocated by the government to evacuate Iraqi asylum seekers at the Belarus border with Poland. Iraqi government sources said that more asylum seekers wishing to return to the country will be transferred on future trips.
A spokesman for the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq stated that most of the returnees hail from the region, adding at a press conference that 10 smugglers who “deceived” Iraqi migrants who were stuck in the past days at the Belarusian-Polish border were arrested.
“I spent more than 4,000 dollars to get to Belarus,” one of the returnees, a resident of Erbil, told AFP. “Our conditions were very difficult. We ate grass and leaves, and the weather was cold.”
Yesterday, Thursday, international organizations called in a joint statement for the delivery of urgent humanitarian aid to migrants stranded at the Belarusian-Polish border, and it comes to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Relief organizations said that at least 10 people died in the area due to the bad weather and the difficulty of movement, warning that the humanitarian situation in the region would deteriorate further with the approach of harsh winter conditions.