Why Belarus is using migrants as a political weapon

Belarus sent thousands of desperate migrants to the border with Poland in an attempt to turn the European Union against itself in to chase the armor over sanctions imposed last year, in the wake of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s brutal suppression on politics opponents and protesters.

the influx of migrants, which EU officials say Lukashenko deliberately provoked as a “hybrid attack” on the EU, comes at a difficult time for the EU as the bloc struggles with internal tensions of its own, but has so far resulted in an increasingly united EU response.

New sanctions against Belarusian airlines and officials responsible for encourage the influx of people the country in, to be set be imposed on Monday, according to EU officials, and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen said last week, “It is important that Lukashenko understands that” [the regime’s] behavior comes with An price.”

However, it is unclear of they will deter Belarus, which is not an EU member and is sometimes referred to as “Europes last dictatorship”, of adding fuel to the existing crisis along the Belarus-Poland border.

the migrants — between 3,000 to 4,000 people according to the Polish authorities, mainly from conflict-torn regions of the Middle East like Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan – came to Belarus after the government relaxed visa rules in August, a safer, easier route to the EU border.

People die trying to leave places like sulaimaniya, in Iraqi Kurdistan, have received Belarusian visas, bought a ticket on one of the many flights run by the state-operated airline, and on the way to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where some are housed in government-run hotels, according to the New York Times.

But far from providing humanitarian aid and a safe haven for migrants, Lukashenko’s regime pushes them to the borders of Poland, Latvia and Lithuania in an attempt to exert pressure on the EU to lift sanctions on the nation.

Belarus has also direct action taken to make it more difficult for its EU neighbours: The New York Times reports that Belarusian security forces have delivered migrants with instructions on cross-border and tools like wire cutters and axes to break down border fences.

On Saturday, Belarusian journalist Tadeusz Giczan tweeted that Belarusian troops were trying to destroy fencing at the Polish border and using lasers and flashing lights to temporarily blind and confuse Polish soldiers stationed there in an attempt to help migrants come over the border.

Despite Belarusian efforts to force migrants to neighboring EU countries, but the vast majority of die currently stuck there at the border, with small protection from the elements. if winter sets in, migrants sleeping in tents, often with inadequate clothing and supplies, and EU countries so far refuse them entry. Already, at least nine people have died; some estimates are: even higherand conditions may worsen as winter sets in in.

What does Lukashenko hope to achieve?

Despite the seriousness of the humanitarian crisis die unfolding on the borders of Belarus, Lukashenko’s objectives appear to be mainly political. The strong president desperately wants to bring the EU to the negotiating table over sanctions imposed after he fraudulently re-elected last year and force the block to again recognize him as the legitimate leader of the country.

Despite his more However, recent grievances, Lukashenko’s threats to open his country’s border are going away back even further, Artyom Shraibman, a political analyst based in Minsk and a non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Moscow Center, Vox told this month.

“He even threatened to do this” for many years, long before the political crisis of 2020,” said Shraibman via WhatsApp. “Every time the EU criticized him, every time the West criticized him, he repeated the same chain of argument – ‘You don’t appreciate me, that I defend you against the illegal migrants, I defend you against the drug trade, I guard your eastern border and you are not grateful.’”

But Lukashenko didn’t make it good on its threats until 2021, after the EU sanctioned Lukashenko, his son and national security adviser Viktor and 179 other individuals and entities, as a result of fraudulent presidential elections in Belarus and the subsequent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters last year.

although he remains in office, last year’s election saw Lukashenko’s 25-year grip on power begin to erode, when Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the current Belarusian opposition leader who was a political newcomer at the time, set a serious – and probably successful — campaign to drive him out. Tikhanovskaya, who came alone in the race after her husband, Sergei, was arrested by the regime, managed to unite the Belarusian opposition behind a platform of democratic change and the elimination of corruption and inequality in wealth.

Evidence suggests Tikhanovskaya’s strategy may have worked; some exit polls from the August 2020 elections suggest that they won as much as 80 percent of the vote. Lukashenko, however, declared the victory, cracked down on protests erupt in all over the country, and forced Tikhanovskaya in exile in Lithuania while jailing other opposition leaders.

the brutality of Lukashenko’s response, plus the blatant falsehood of to be latest “victory”, prompted the EU to take coercive measures against his regime, applying increasingly restrictive measures from in October of last year.

Belarus’ pariah status escalated even further this spring after a Ryanair flight failed forced down by a Belarusian jet fighter so that the regime could arrest two passengers: dissident journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, who were detained by the regime. In answer, the EU banned Belarusian air carriers of EU airports and airspace.

met few tools at his disposal, and few friends except for a reluctant Russia, Lukashenko finally made good on his threat to open Belarus to the electricity of migrants in the hope one new life in the European Union.

The Max Fisher of the New York Times points out that the flow of refugees from border countries is not really a novel problem for the block, and it is one die the EU has created by promoting places like Libya, Turkey and Sudan to ban migrants from its borders, despite the financial and human rights costs.

As Fisher puts it:, “Belarus, in met in other words, is joining An practice die the European Union has long institutionalized: cutting offers with border countries to keep refugees and migrants away from the EU border.”

Anyway, Shraibman says, Belarus latest Busy tactics plausibly won Lukashenko won’t get what he wants: Belarus, forced the issue by migrants in orphans to invite in the country, leading taking them to the EU border and then denying them asylum if they cannot gain entry is now facing even more sanctions.

“The EU probably won’t budge because the pressure isn’t that great,” Shraibman said. ‘It’s not like the million refugees die came to the EU in 2015, it is just thousands of people. It’s digestible for the European Union; it is not something that makes them change their position.”

The EU projects unity, but it is still facing real internal problems

Shraibman told Vox that Belarus provocation is unlikely to do that result in concessions from the EU. Lukashenko couldn’t have chosen a better one issue pressurize on the block. Poland, where the border crisis has been most acute, is already on the outs with EU leadership over democracy issues, and immigration has long been a particularly thorny issue issue for the block.

During the 2015 refugee crisis, Poland was one of the most shrill critics of EU migration policy; Jarosław Kaczynski, leader of the ruling Law and Justice Party, falsely alleged in 2015 that Syrian refugees were sick and that they would? use Polish churches as ‘toilets’ as Anne Applebaum writes for the Atlantic Ocean.

Since then, the nation has drifted further from common EU policy and more in the direction of the species of right wing, nationalistic policies sneaking to the fore of European politics over the past decade.

The divide between Poland and the EU has intensified recently over a disciplinary process in the former’s court system, which the EU accused had been used by the Polish government until press judges and bring them under political control. In October, the EU adopted a 1 million euros per day fine against Poland for EU violation rules, and Poland has also increasingly strict restrictions introduced against LGBTQ-burgers and the media, distancing itself from the more progressive values die embraces the EU.

But if one of Lukashenko . goals in in addition to getting sanctions relief was further breaking the EU, such as: European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson claimed this past summer when the crisis started, it didn’t work.

“Poland, that is facing a serious crisis, should enjoy solidarity and unity of throughout the European Union”, Karel Michel, president of the European Council said: on Wednesday during a visit to the Polish capital of Warsaw, emphasizing that the EU intends to with Lukashenko’s Aggression and the problems it poses for the EU apart from the EU’s internal struggle with member countries.

as Applebaum points outPoland, however, has adapted a little less quickly with the European Union. While the land trusts now on EU sanctions and appeal to NATO To hang out with the issue of migrants on its border, Poland has previously received help from Frontex, the EU Border Police, and declined to handle the flow of migrants over the summer by accepting help of the European Asylum Support Office.

Now Poland and the EU are both facing a real humanitarian disaster on the border between Belarus and Poland, where thousands of people of people are stuck in limbo between two nations die won’t accept them, ill-equipped to survive a harsh winter, and not in able to return to their own country countries. thousands more, who have been exploited by Lukashenkos government in buying travel packages to Minsk so he can use them as leverage against the EU, wait in the capital of close to the border with Poland, according to the Moscow Times.

Several countries, including Iraq and Turkey, have limited their flights to Belarus of cancelled in to stop the flow of people in the country like has Dubai; there are thousands more of people who in despair need waiting for help at the border of be stuck in Minsk.

On Monday, the EU — with the support of The United States, which one has also Lukashenko’s regime sanctioned – is set to impose further sanctions against Belarus, the opposite of Lukashenkos goal. However, if Lukashenko continues of escalates, tactics, Michel has suggested the possibility of “physical infrastructure” like barriers, to keep migrants in out.

Whatever happens, Shraibman says the current crisis has paid for the opportunity of direct talks between Belarus and the EU.

“I can imagine a situation where Lukashenko supports down, if he has given something option save faceShraibman told Vox, suggesting this could be done by sending migrants back to their home countries with the help of the UN. “But to imagine direct diplomatic negotiations between him and the EU, that is something that is not” possible currently.”

Read More: World News

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