Migrants say Belarusians took them to EU border and supplied wire knives

SULAIMANIYA, Iraq – The Sudden Wave of migrants to Belarus from the Middle East, that is now the focus of a political crisis in Europe was hardly an accident.

The government of Belarus has eased its visa rules in August, Iraqi travel agents said, die made a flight to the country a more tasty journey to Europe than the perilous crossing from Turkey to Greece.

It increased the number of flights by the state airline and then actively helped to direct migrants from the capital Minsk to the borders with Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.

And Belarusian security forces gave their directions on how enter the European Union countries, even hand over out wire cutters and axes to cut through border fences.

This moves, die European leaders have characterized as cynical ploy to ‘arm’ migrants in an attempt to punish Europe opened the gates for people desperate to flee region plagued by instability and high unemployment.

Now, thousands of people are stranded of hide along the border in icy conditions, not wanted by the European Union countries of the circumstances make it clear, through the land that lured them there in the first place.

The human tide has changed cities like sulaimaniyah, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, to ​​bustling ports of departure for migrants die please a expensive and risky journey for the chance of a better life in Europe.

While the word went viral on social media that Belarus offered a route to Europe, the number of migrant snowballs.

Mala Rawaz, a travel agency in Sulaimaniya, said he sold about 100 packs a week for travel to Belarus. The packages include airline tickets through a third country, transit accommodation and a Belarusian visa.

At the city’s bazaar, Bryar Muhammad, 25, was busy business on Thursday selling warm clothes.

“Good clothes for Belarus!” he cried, insistently up thick acrylic sweaters and winter coats drawn from cardboard box. “For the snow of Belarus!”

even if young families in Iraq was putting up their homes as collateral to increase money for the journey, the evidence piled up that The Autocratic Leader of Belarus, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, orchestrated the migration to create a crisis for the European Union.

Belarus’ state airline, Belavia, had increased the number of flights from the Middle East to Minsk, European officials said. Belarusian authorities have eased issuance of Visa via the state travel agency Tsentrkurort, according to the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

migrants who reached Minsk were put up in at least three government-hotels in property, according to Latvia defense minister, Artis Pabriks and Franak Viacorka, and senior advisor to a Belarusian opposition leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

Mr Pabriks said Belarusian intelligence services were involved in transferring migrants to borders, and that military buses were used.

Several Iraqi migrants said Belarusian security forces had made them available with tools to break through the Polish border fence.

Bayar Awat, an Iraqi Kurd stranded on the Belarusian side of the Polish border, said Belarusian guards had helped him group reach the limit by pointing out a route die the bypassed official border crossing and emerged in near a crack in the border fence.

“The Belarusian police led us to the forest, then directions to lead us in the forest to keep us away from the official border crossing,” he said.

A Belarusian soldier was bugged on Thursday on the telephone ordering an Iraqi Kurd to lead group of 400 to 500 migrants from the Lithuanian border to the Polish border.

“All the people who move go to Brest,” the soldier said to him… in broken English, referring to Belarusian city on the Polish border, because there were too many migrants on the Lithuanian border.

When some migrants tried to leave the icy forest to return to Minsk, many were pressured back by Belarusian guards, leaving the migrants stuck at the border, they said.

European officials say these measures are part of Mr Lukashenko’s attempt to retaliate against the European Union for impose sanctions after he claimed victory in An contested elections of 2020.

“Lukashenko’s rhetoric, the visa” policy and the sudden influx of migrants this summer all point to the involvement of the Belarusian state and travel agencies,” says Gustav Gressel, a in Berlin based senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Affairs.

On Friday, in an attempt to overcome the crisis in checkers, several airlines have took steps to limit the number of people fly to Belarus from the Middle East. Travel agencies in Iraq said Turkey and Iran had started met canceling tickets to Minsk for Iraqi, Syrian and Yemeni passengers on Thursday, and that the government had previously stopped travel agencies from even selling transit tickets to Belarus in the week.

But that mattered little to desperate Iraqis, who goods already Find alternative routes through Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

“I have heard that the situation is not good in Belarus, but I have to go because there is no life here, no job opportunities, no human rights, no equality and… justice, no joy at all,” said Amer Karwan, a carpenter who went with three friends to a travel agency in sulaimaniya on Thursday to met pick up tickets they hoped would take them to Belarus.

mr karwan, who 20 . become on Thursday, had borrowed $3,500 from a relative for the journey. He said the group was not put off by the travel agent warning that the tickets via Iran and Turkey were non-refundable and that no guarantee they would reach Belarus.

Ironically the biggest source of migrants, it semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq, is considered the most stable and secure region of the country.

Unlike many of their parents who became refugees during the era of Saddam Hussein, this time the Iraqi Kurds are not fleeing war of genocide. They are looking for a future that even the relative peace of the land has not provided them.

Despite the outward prosperity of Iraqi Kurdistan, young people especially despair over lack of of jobs, and over the corruption, repression and tribal conflict die often outweigh the legal system.

They take out loans and borrowing from family members to make the trip.

The crisis has price of visa to Belarus, which used to be cost about $90 and now cost about $1,200. Most migrants said they paid about $3,000 for packages including the visa, the flight and a few days of accommodation.

many migrants also let thousands of dollar on cash deposit with currency transfer shops send to smugglers who promise to take them to the border. Several said the smuggling fee was about $3,000. But often, the migrants said, the smugglers do nothing more then point out die direction until walk through the dense forest.

That means nothing of the emotional costs a migrant incurs when he leaves home and family behind.

On Friday, Mr. Karwan, dressed in An new olive green winter coat and gloves, left home take a taxi to the airport in Erbil, four hours away.

see him off in Sulaimaniyah, Mr. Karwan’s mother and two sisters stood sobbing at the gate. To be father pushed Iraqi dinars in his hand and waited for the taxi door to close before wiping away the tears.

“I feel terrible”, he said mother, Bayan Omar. “He’s My Only One” son. If I stop him from leaving, what would he do? He tells me, ‘Can you? guarantee me a house, An car, a life, the chance Marry?’ I can’t stop him.”

Later on die day, Mr. Karwan’s flights through Tehran and Istanbul were canceled. He was waiting in Erbil is being rebooked via dubai.

for those who to have already made to Belarus the situation is grim. At the border with Lithuania, several thousand migrants were pushed up against barbed wire fences, prevented moving forward of to go back.

Young men and families with small children who had walked for days through the deep forest huddled around makeshift camps, wood burned trying to keep warm, according to videos die sent by the migrants. Some had small pop-up tents, others buried themselves in sleeping bags on the icy ground.

On Saturday, the Polish authorities accused the Belarusian soldiers of destroy part of a border fence at the village of Czeremcha and of trying to distract the Polish border guards with laser beams and strobe lights, to help migrants entering the European Union. The Polish account of events, however, could not be confirmed because the government in Warsaw has banned all non-residents, including journalists and doctors, from entering the border area.

At least nine migrants have died in Poland over the past two weeks, most from exposure, according to Polish officials. Belarus did not say how many have died on to be side of the border. Polish media reported on Thursday that a 14-year-old Iraqi boy was frozen death close to the border in Belarus.

“We have food and water, but not enough,” said one Iraqi Kurd, who asked to be called by his nickname, Bahadino. He sent videos showing he was pregnant women and small children, some of them disabled.

He also sent a video of herself and a small group of migrants die politely holding a cardboard sign read, “Poland – Sorry.”

“Today we apologized to the European Union and Poland,” he said. “You know because we got to the border and broke the fence at the border. We apologize for Which.”

But he made no apologies for trying to enter Europe. He said he didn’t plans to return to Iraq.

Jane Arraf reported from Sulaimaniyah, Iraq, and Elian Peltier from Brussels. Sangar Khaleel and Barzan Jabar contributed reporting from Sulaimaniya, and Andrew Higgins from Warsaw.

Read More: World News

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