The Belarusian president estimates the number of migrants in his country at about 7,000, of which he hopes to repatriate 5,000 and 2,000 to send to Germany through a humanitarian corridor
The first repatriation flight with illegals who tried unsuccessfully to enter Poland from Belarus departed this Thursday from Minsk bound for Baghdad. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko estimates about 7,000 migrants currently in his country, of whom he hopes to repatriate 5,000 and 2,000 to send to Germany through a humanitarian corridor. All this is part of the measures that Lukashenko intends to promote to try to improve his relationship with the EU and get Brussels to lift sanctions.
The 2,000 migrants that the Belarusian dictator wants Germany to host are, according to him, those who are now on the border with Poland. The other 5,000 Syrian, Iraqi, Yemeni and Afghan citizens will be gradually sent to their respective countries, although Lukashenko has warned that “we will not evict anyone by force.” All these details are part of the conversation that the first Belarusian leader had with the acting German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday.
This was confirmed this Thursday by the spokesperson for the Belarusian Presidency, Natalia Eismont. In his words, “the European Union has been proposed to create a humanitarian corridor for 2,000 refugees who are currently in a camp in the area. We, for our part, will facilitate the return of the 5,000 remaining migrants to their places of origin.
Eismont, quoted by the state agency Belta, assures that Merkel agreed to transfer the offer to Brussels. “As you can see, we are ready to fulfill our commitments. For now, only about 400 refugees have agreed to return to their homeland. To be precise, 374 passengers, most of them Iraqis, have boarded a flight that left Minsk this Thursday, “he added, and promised to continue reporting as talks with Germany and the EU progress. He also specified that there are between 200 and 500 migrants “scattered along the border.”
Lukashenko’s spokeswoman has not missed the opportunity to criticize the Europeans and said that “we keep our promises while the EU has not deigned to fulfill any of its obligations (…) they have not even started the talks at the expert level.” A spokesman for the European Commission said this Thursday through Twitter that “there will be technical talks for repatriation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and with Belarus” .
Lukashenko and Merkel, according to the Belta agency, agreed on Wednesday that Minsk and Brussels should enter into direct negotiations to enable an agreement to help solve the migration crisis. The High Representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, already spoke on Sunday with his Belarusian counterpart, Vladimir Makéi.
The first flight with migrants who until now had been blocked at the border with Poland departed this Thursday from the Belarusian capital to Baghdad with about 400 passengers. The Iraqi consul in Moscow, Majid al-Kilani, said that “Iraqis who wanted to, but have not been able to get from Belarus to Poland or Lithuania, are now returning home.” According to his statements, “for now, no additional flights are planned from Baghdad to pick up more Iraqi citizens in Minsk.”
Berlin denies that it has agreed with Minsk the reception of refugees
The acting German Minister of the Interior, Horst Seehofer, denied on Thursday that the outgoing Chancellor, Angela Merkel, had agreed with the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, the reception of the 2,000 migrants that he intends to send to German soil. “This information is false,” said Seehofer during a visit to Warsaw in which he said that Merkel herself has denied it.
Unlike what Lukashenko advocated, Seehofer made it clear that the EU does not contemplate welcoming migrants who have been tempted by Minsk to cross into Europe. In the same way, he reaffirmed to Poland the support of the German Government for the close-up of its border.
Seehofer’s clarification came hours after Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte was reluctant to dialogue with Lukashenko about a possible solution to the migration crisis on the Belarusian-Polish border. The president assured that she trusts that the EU remains “united” so that it does not negotiate “with the people who blackmail it and try to get recognition.”
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis took the same line, describing the negotiations with Minsk as “a dangerous path”. He also showed his displeasure at having learned from “foreign partners” of Wednesday’s conversation between Merkel and Lukashenko.