SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 3 December 2021, Friday |

More than 100 migrants mainly from Mideast flown out of Belarus

Belarusian authorities said Tuesday that 118 migrants who had hoped to reach the European Union via Poland had been flown out of the country.

It was the latest sign of de-escalation in a crisis that saw thousands of migrants, mostly from the Middle East, stranded on the border between Poland and Belarus.

“118 people left from Minsk national airport yesterday,” Alexei Begun, the head of Belarus’s interior ministry’s migration department, told state news agency Belta.

He stated that another group of migrants was scheduled to leave Belarus on Tuesday.

He didn’t say where they were going, but he did say that embassies from several countries, including Syria and Iraq, were organizing repatriation flights for their citizens who had “found themselves in a difficult situation.”

Western leaders have accused Belarus’s strongman leader, Alexander Lukashenko, of causing the crisis by luring migrants to his country in order to send them across the border into the EU in response to sanctions.

After Polish forces deployed to prevent crossings, the migrants established a camp on the border, and Belarusian authorities eventually relocated them to a logistics center near the Bruzgi border checkpoint.

A first group of 431 people was flown back to Iraq from Belarus as part of a repatriation mission.

Begun stated that authorities are “helping” migrants who want to return home with their paperwork.

He stated that Minsk was collaborating with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Geneva and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to get migrants out of the border zone.

According to him, representatives from the organizations were in the country, meeting with state officials to “work on joint steps to resolve the migrant crisis.”

The European Commission was also present at the logistics center, according to Belta.

Lukashenko said on Monday that more repatriation flights were being planned.

“They want to return to Iraq, Syria – you see, we organized a flight,” he told Belta.

“If we can gather these people, we’ll be able to schedule another flight for the end of the month,” he said.

According to aid organizations, at least 11 migrants have died since a surge in border crossings began this summer.