The European Union accuses Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of deliberately orchestrating the EU migrant crisis. Thousands of migrants arrived in Minsk by Belavia state planes from Istanbul, Beirut, Damascus and Dubai airports. In fact, on Friday, the airline announced that it will no longer allow citizens of Syria or Iraq to board the flights departing from Istanbul, at the request of Turkey. For many refugees trying to reach the European Union, the road to the EU border via Belarus costs all their life savings, according to a report in The Moscow Times, on one of the last migrant planes to leave. from Istanbul to Minsk.
“This is our lucky ticket, we’re going to Europe,” said 18-year-old Zoran, dressed in a thick winter coat, as he waited to board a flight to the Belarusian capital operated by Belavia, the airline. state. Two days later, Belavia announced that it would no longer allow Iraqi, Syrian or Yemeni citizens to fly from Turkey to Belarus.
Zoran has already traveled from his hometown of Zakho, a Kurdish city in northern Iraq, first by bus and then by plane from Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan region.
Like thousands of other migrants from the Middle East who have traveled to the Polish border with Belarus in recent weeks, he is determined to join the EU and ready to face the harsh conditions of makeshift camps in the forests near the separating wire fence. the two countries.
“I have no choice, life is dangerous and hopeless in Iraq. I’m ready for that, “he said.
Three flights a day depart for Minsk from Istanbul, operated by both Belavia and Turkish Airlines. In airplanes, few Belarusian citizens, as they are largely banned from leaving the country due to COVID-19 regulations.
Poland on Tuesday criticized Turkey for maintaining an open corridor between Istanbul and Minsk and for helping Belarus bring thousands of refugees to its border, accusing Turkey of synchronizing its actions with Belarus and Russia.
Migrants crowding to receive food from UN aid on the border between Belarus and Poland. Photo: Profimedia Images
The EU is set to impose more sanctions on Belarus over the migrant crisis, including banning Belavia from being able to lease aircraft from Danish, Romanian and Irish companies.
On Wednesday, Bloomberg announced that the EU and the US are also considering imposing sanctions on Russian state-owned company Aeroflot and Turkish Airlines, accusing them of transporting immigrants to Belarus on Lukashenko’s orders. Aeroflot denied the allegations on Thursday, while Turkish Airlines later announced that it would no longer allow Iraqi, Syrian and Yemeni citizens to board its flights to Minsk.
For many, the road to Belarus means life savings. “I’m leaving and I’m not coming back”
Belavia ground staff separated Iraqi citizens from other passengers as Istanbul took off.
“If you are from Iraq, please continue boarding on a separate line,” a woman in a blue Belavia uniform shouted as a group far ahead of the other passengers began to form.
Many of the migrants had only a vague plan on how to get to the Polish border, all the way to Europe.
“We will go tomorrow or the day after, maybe even tonight,” said Afron, 16, adding that he travels alone with the blessing of his parents.
Asked how he plans to reach the EU border, he pointed. “Dude, they’re strong,” he said.
Once the plane was full, Nzar – a 24-year-old math teacher from Kurdistan, took out his phone and sent selfies to friends and family that showed the boarding successfully. An atmosphere of relief entered the plane as it was preparing to take off. “We succeeded, we will take off,” Nzar said.
Nzar said he was trying to get to Germany to reconnect with his girlfriend and the two brothers who obtained asylum in Berlin during the 2015 European immigrant crisis.
At that time, he walked from Turkey to Germany, but was denied asylum and deported back to Iraq. Now he hopes that the flight to Belarus will give him a new chance to see his loved ones.
“I gave up everything I had to see them again. I’m leaving and I’m not coming back. I will stay in the cold all winter if necessary (n.red at the EU border) “, he said.
For many, traveling to Belarus costs as much as all the savings of a lifetime.
Nzar said he paid “an intermediary” in Iraq $ 2,000 for a week-long tourist visa to Belarus, which he proudly displayed. The middleman took another $ 600 for a hotel room.
Others have used the many travel agencies in Belarus, some with links to the country’s authorities, which have recently appeared in cities in the Middle East.
“It was extremely easy to get a visa in less than a week. If you have some money “, said Nzar.
Groups of migrants on the streets of Minsk, Belarus. Photo: Profimedia Images
“Tourists” who plan to cross the border into Europe
A female Belavia crew member said she first saw several citizens of Syria and Iraq boarding flights to Minsk in the summer.
She joked that since then it has become an “open secret” that the airline is transporting “tourists” who plan to cross the border into Europe.
“We have been flying with refugees for months … Everyone knows what we are doing. We all watch the news, “she said.
The UN Refugee Agency said at least eight migrants had died of cold at the border. Human rights groups believe the balance is higher.
“I am not afraid. I have no life in Iraq. No job, no future, no money. Europe is where I want to be. Germany, I hope, “says Rebin, Nzar’s friend.
Migrants warming themselves on fire in the forests near the border between Belarus and Poland. Photo: Profimedia Images
When the flight landed at the airport, 40 kilometers from Minsk, a border control officer in a green uniform immediately ordered all Iraqi citizens to follow him to the second floor. They showed up two hours later, and most of them boarded buses and taxis going to the big, gloomy hotels in Minsk, booked in advance by travel agencies.
A group of less than five men, including 16-year-old Afron, set off on foot through the darkness into the city.
Editor : Robert Kiss