EU considers new sanctions against Belarus over illegal migrants
- Sanctions could be a response to the expulsion of a French diplomat
- EU says Belarus is cheating migrants by promising them a new life in the EU
- EU is also considering sanctions against Belarusian Foreign Minister
LUXEMBOURG, October 18 (Reuters) – European Union foreign ministers on Monday debated new economic sanctions against Belarus, including against airlines, to end what Brussels says is a deliberate policy of Minsk of bringing in thousands of migrants by plane and sending them across the border.
The sanctions proposal, first expressed by Latvia on Monday in Luxembourg, was not initially on the agenda of EU foreign ministers and may have been a response to a decision by Belarus to ‘expel the French ambassador this weekend, diplomats said.
France said on Monday that its ambassador had left Belarus because authorities terminated his accreditation after he failed to present his credentials to President Alexander Lukashenko, whom the EU no longer recognizes as head of ‘Legitimate state.
A tougher sanctions would follow general measures imposed on the Belarusian economy in June following Lukashenko’s crackdown on protesters following his disputed re-election in August 2020. Protesters claim the elections were rigged, which he said. denies.
Many EU states are now accusing Lukashenko of bringing in illegal migrants from Iraq, Iran and Africa to send them across the border to the EU in order to destabilize the bloc.
Lukashenko denies this and has blamed the West for what he says is an impending humanitarian disaster this winter after migrants were stranded at the Belarusian-Polish border. Read more
“We need to introduce tougher sanctions… It means putting the so-called tourist companies that organize flights (under sanctions),” Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said as he arrived for a meeting with his European counterparts. in Luxembourg.
“I also think that we must fully sanction Belavia, so that it cannot receive any kind of support,” he said, referring to the Belarusian national airline, already banned from the airspace of the EU.
Belavia leases planes from EU countries, including Ireland, which seemed wary of measures that would interfere with existing leases, although Foreign Minister Simon Coveney has said he is ready to prevent future deals.
“While Ireland wants to increase the sanctions and the pressure on the Belarusian regime, we must also make sure that this is feasible and enforceable,” he told reporters in Luxembourg.
The EU is also preparing a new package of sanctions against Belarusians, which could include the foreign minister, accused of playing a role in the campaign to encourage illegal migration to the EU.
NEW FLIGHTS, NEW PROMISES
Since August, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia have reported an increase in illegal border crossings from Belarus. They accuse Minsk of using a network of travel agencies in Iraq and sub-Saharan Africa to offer migrants Belarusian visas and transport them to the EU border.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said there had been no slowdown in migrant flows, even after the EU succeeded in stopping departures from Iraq and Jordan.
“They are using new flights from a number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa in order to deceive people in the hope of easy entry into the European Union,” he said. he declares.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that after the EU meeting, more talks will take place in the coming days.
“We will put more pressure on the airlines that bring people from various places in Minsk, from where they are brought, with the support of the leader there, to the borders,” he said.
Additional reporting by Sabine Siebold Editing by Gareth Jones and Peter Graff
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