World Belarus Border Camp Emptied, Hundreds of Migrants Flown Back to Iraq
EXPLAINER: What's behind the crisis at Belarus-Poland border
Thousands of migrants have flocked to Belarus' border with Poland, hoping to get to Western Europe, and many of them are now stranded at the frontier, setting up makeshift camps as Polish security forces watch them from behind a razor-wire fence and prevent them from entering the country. A look at what led to the standoff: WHAT IS BEHIND THE CRISIS? Belarus was rocked by months of massive protests following the August 2020 election that gave authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko a sixth term in office. The opposition and the West rejected the result as a sham.
Hundreds of Iraqis have been flown back to their country amid tensions between Belarus and Poland, the Associated Press reported.
Belarusian media reported that no more migrants were seen in the makeshift camps. The migrants were either put on flights back to their home countries or allegedly placed in a heated warehouse to protect them from the cold weather.
It is estimated that 430 Iraqis registered for flights back home, according to Russia's Iraq consul Majid al-Kilani. A spokeswoman for Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said that 374 citizens boarded a flight that left the morning of November 18.
Poland Closes Border Checkpoint as Tensions With Belarus Escalate Over Migration Policies
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has encouraged migrants to illegally enter bordering European Union nations. For months, thousands of migrants have attempted to illegally enter Poland, many getting stuck in a swampy forested area and pushed back and forth by Polish and Belarusian forces.According to Major Katarzyna Zdanowicz from the region's border guards, about 3,000-4,000 migrants were along the border, including 800 in the vicinity of a large makeshift camp.U.N.
However, the spokeswoman, Natalya Eismont, said that as many as 7,000 migrants remained in the country.
Many migrants have been fleeing from countries such as Iraq and Syria that have been experiencing sociopolitical turmoil in hopes of reaching the. Poland, Latvia and Lithuania have seen an increase in migrants arriving from Belarus.
Belarus has been accused of using migrants as pawns by Western governments to "destabilize the 27-nation bloc in retaliation for its sanctions on his authoritarian regime," according to AP. Belarusian officials have denied the allegations.
Poland has taken a tough stand against the influx of migrants to mixed reception. While nations in thehave praised the country for its reinforcements, human rights groups have criticized officials for pushing migrants back into Belarus and using excessive force that included the use of on them.
French police evacuates migrants from makeshift camp
GRANDE-SYNTHE, France (AP) — French police on Tuesday have evacuated migrants from a makeshift camp near Dunkirk, in northern France, where at least 1,500 people gathered in hopes of making it across the English Channel to Britain. Migrants, including some families with young children, could be seen packing their few belongings as police were encircling the camp early Tuesday morning, on the site of a former industrial complex in Grande-Synthe, east of Dunkirk.
Polish authorities have not commented on the departure of migrants from their territory.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
Since November 8, some 2,000 people, mostly from the Middle East, have been stranded at the border crossing, trapped in a dank forest as forces from the two countries faced off against each other. At least 12 people have died in the area in recent weeks, including a 1-year-old whose death a Polish humanitarian organization reported Thursday.
Poland didn't want to let them in, and Belarus didn't want them returning to the capital of Minsk or otherwise settling in the country.
The November 18 flight plans to make two stops—one in the city of Erbil and another in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.
In the latest salvo in the war of words, European Union Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, accused Belarus of engaging in "an act of state-sponsored migrant smuggling" and said sanctions and stopping flights to Minsk that carry migrants were "our most effective tools in this struggle."
Poland: Migrant camps along Belarus border have emptied
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish authorities said Friday there are no more migrants camping along the Belarus side of the European Union’s eastern border, but attempts at illegally crossing into the bloc’s territory are continuing and becoming more aggressive. Around 50 migrants got through a fence into Poland on Thursday, Anna Michalska, a spokeswoman for Poland’s Border Guard said. They included a family of five who said they wanted to stay and live in Poland, opening a procedure toward settlement. The others will have to return to Belarus, Michalska said. Two other large groups of migrants were prevented from entering.
Foreign ministers of the G-7 group of leading industrialized countries also condemned "the Belarus regime's orchestration of irregular migration across its borders" in a statement Thursday.
Eismont said that the fact that hundreds of people were leaving Belarus shows that the government is holding up its part of the bargain. The rest are "categorically refusing to fly, but we will work on it," she said.
Earlier this week, according to Eismont, Lukashenko proposed to German Chancellorthat the EU could open a "humanitarian corridor" to allow 2,000 migrants to head to Germany, while Belarusian authorities would work on convincing the other 5,000 to return to their home countries.
In response to a request for comment, Merkel's office referred to its Tuesday statement on the call between her and Lukashenko, in which she stressed the need for humanitarian assistance and for the migrants' safe return home.
Lukashenko has rejected accusations of engineering the crisis and said his government has deported about 5,000 illegal migrants from Belarus this fall.
Poland's PM to hold talks in Europe on border crisis
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Saturday he is to hold a series of talks in Europe about the pressure of migrants on the European Union’s border with Belarus, a crisis that he expects will continue. Morawiecki said he was meeting on Sunday with his counterparts from EU members Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which have also been hit by the migrant pressure in recent months, though to a lesser degree. During the week he is to travel to some other European countries, which he did not name.
In May, however, he had railed against the EU sanctions imposed on his country for its harsh crackdown on internal dissent, saying: "We were stopping migrants and drugs—now you will catch them and eat them yourself."
Camped in Calais, migrants renew resolve to try for England .
CALAIS, France (AP) — At the makeshift camps in France near Calais and Dunkirk, migrants are digging in, waiting for their chance to make a dash across the English Channel despite the deaths of at least 27 people this week when their boat sank a few miles (kilometers) from the French coast. Police have stepped up patrols in recent days and the weather has worsened, making this a bad time to attempt a crossing. But most migrants say the tragedy won’t prevent them from climbing into a flimsy inflatable boat packed with up to 50 people in hopes of reaching Britain.