West Accuses Belarus of Orchestrating Migrant Crisis at Polish Border


“There is not enough water and food,” the Belarus border service said in a statement, describing the people in the camp as mainly Kurds. “The situation is complicated by a significant number of pregnant women and infants among the refugees.”

E.U. officials said they were analyzing air traffic to Minsk, the Belarusian capital, as potential evidence that Mr. Lukashenko was effectively orchestrating a flow of migrants toward E.U. countries. The timetable for the Minsk airport, effective Oct. 31, shows at least 47 scheduled flights per week from Middle Eastern locations, compared with no more than 23 flights per week on its previous schedule. The additional flights include a new daily route from Damascus on an Airbus A320 operated by the Syrian airline Cham Wings.

Travel agencies in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, where many of the migrants come from, have been offering packages that include visas to Belarus and airfare either through Turkey or the United Arab Emirates for about $3,000.

Mr. Stano, the E.U. spokesman, said officials were monitoring flights from around two dozen countries that were ferrying migrants into Minsk — including Morocco, Syria, South Africa, Somalia, India, Sri Lanka, Algeria, Libya and Yemen. The European commissioner for home affairs, Ylva Johansson, said the E.U. was stepping up “outreach with partner countries” to prevent migrants from coming to Belarus in the first place.

“Our urgent priority is to turn off the supply coming into Minsk airport,” she said in a tweet.

The E.U.’s standoff with Mr. Lukashenko has been intensifying ever since he crushed street protests against election fraud last year. Mr. Lukashenko claims the West is trying to topple him by supporting the opposition, and has imprisoned thousands of dissidents and journalists, while many others have left the country.

In May, Belarus diverted a RyanAir flight from Greece to Lithuania as it flew through Belarusian airspace, forcing it to land in Minsk, and arrested a passenger, Roman Protasevich, a dissident Belarusian journalist living in exile. European leaders decried the move as an act of piracy, and it provoked a new round of Western sanctions against Belarus.


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