Tensions between the European Union and Belarus have been rising day by day since the arrival last Monday of hundreds of migrants at the country’s border with Poland. Since that day, the Polish Border Guard has recorded more than 30,000 attempts to cross the barbed wire fence separating the two countries. Warsaw and Brussels have accused the Minsk regime of organizing human trafficking to put pressure on a public bloc in retaliation for the economic sanctions imposed on Belarus for serious human rights violations in the country after protests against the elections held in August 2020, the result of which was not recognized EU. These are key moments in the escalation of tensions on the border with the EU.
Where are the immigrants from?
The people who are crowding more and more near the Polish border are not from Belarus or any other country in the region. The migrants arrived in the border region near the Belarusian city of Grodno, dressed in warm clothes to protect themselves from the cold and led, according to the Polish authorities, by agents of the Minsk regime with weapons and dogs. On Monday night, hundreds of people, including many children, pitched tents and lit fires to spend the night in the freezing cold. Most of the immigrants come from the Middle East, many of them Kurds, mostly from Iraq and Syria.
A similar situation is provoked by the government of Alexander Lukashenko, which currently has 2,000 immigrants on the border with Poland. In July, more than 4,000 people, mostly Iraqis, but also Congolese, Cameroonians, Syrians and Afghans, illegally entered Lithuania from Belarus. When Lithuania closed the border, the flow of immigrants moved to Latvia and, especially, to Poland.
What is the Belarusian route?
To destabilize the EU, Lukashenka’s regime is exploiting the vulnerability of migrants in regions such as the Middle East and the Gulf states to encourage air travel to Minsk as a safe and unhindered route to Europe. Thus, potential refugees have an incentive to avoid dangerous sea travel from Turkey and North Africa. According to this formula, citizens of the Middle East, as well as African countries, land in Minsk on flights of different airlines. For this reason, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned on Monday that the EU executive is studying “how to punish airlines from third countries that are actively involved in human trafficking with sanctions, including through restrictive lists.”
European Union ambassadors on Thursday discussed the possibility of punishing Belarus’ capital airport and its ground operations to prevent international airlines carrying illegal immigrants from landing. At the same time, the Kremlin denies Russia’s involvement in the immigration conflict and calls the idea that the Russian state-owned airline Aeroflot could become the object of sanctions considered by the European Union in response to a new wave of immigrants “crazy”.
What was the reaction of Poland and the European Union?
The Polish government has deployed 15,000 troops to a three-kilometer security zone along the border, with almost 400 kilometers occupied by checkpoints. Poland declared a state of emergency in two provinces bordering Belarus in September, the legal situation preventing NGOs from accessing supplies and medical care. Lithuania and Latvia have also taken steps to strengthen their borders against the hybrid war (a combination of conventional and non-traditional means in a conflict situation) provoked by Minsk.
After years of fighting against some EU solidarity rules, especially in the area of immigration, and breaking EU law, Poland needs a European umbrella. European Council President Charles Michel rushed to Warsaw on Wednesday to “express the full EU solidarity” with Poland in the face of the Lukashenka regime’s aggression. In the Polish capital, he announced that the 27 members of the bloc were finalizing new sanctions against the Lukashenka regime, which would be adopted quickly, probably next Monday. NATO also expressed its full support to Atlantic Alliance member Poland on Tuesday.
What can you expect from this moment?
Russia, which has denied any involvement in the immigration conflict from the outset, on Wednesday showed military support for the regime of Alexander Lukashenko by sending two Tu-22M3 strategic bombers of the Russian Aerospace Forces to patrol the borders of the Belarusian border territory indefinitely. with EU countries.
For his part, Lukashenko on Thursday threatened to stop the flow of Russian gas from Belarus to Europe. The clash, which began as an immigration conflict on Belarus’s border with Poland, is now challenging EU stability in several areas.
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