The European Commission is in contact with African countries to prevent their citizens from traveling to Belarus and irregularly crossing the bloc’s borders, the EU commissioner for home affairs said on Tuesday.
Speaking to the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg, Ylva Johansson accused the Lukashenko regime of “state-run instrumentalization of migrants” which constitutes a “blatant disregard of international law.”
According to the EU, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko had invited “tourists” from countries that are the main sources of migration to the EU in order to revenge EU sanctions against his regime.
“This year, we have already seen more than 6,000 irregular arrivals coming across Belarus-EU border compared to barely 150 last year,” Johansson said, explaining that people are coming “originally from Iraq, but also from Congo, Cameroon, Syria.”
“Belarus is not of any known migration route from these countries, Belarus is not a country under migratory pressure,” she stressed.
According to the EU commissioner, the Belarusian regime also makes money by demanding thousands of dollars from the migrants and aims at “destabilizing the European Union” at the same time since EU sanctions hit the country.
Johansson praised the efforts of EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell who negotiated with Iraqi authorities to permanently stop flights from Baghdad to Minsk during his visit in Iraq last month.
“Now, we are reaching out to other countries of origin in Africa whose citizens are being misled and victimized by Lukashenko,” she explained.
In August, EU countries bordering Belarus – Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland – requested the bloc’s help because the number of irregular Iraqi, Afghan, and Syrian migrants crossing their borders had dramatically risen.
In June, the bloc banned the overflight of EU airspace and access to airports for all Belarusian aircraft because of the forced diversion of a Ryanair flight to Minsk and the detention of Belarusian journalist Raman Pratasevich and his partner.
Since last October, the EU has imposed sanctions against 166 individuals and 15 entities from Belarus over human rights violations.