Migrants are being used as weapons again, said Josep Borrell
European Foreign Minister Josep Borrell has asked Iraqi authorities for explanations about the use of Baghdad airport to send migrants to Belarus, from where they cross illegally into Lithuania, AFP reported, citing a statement from Borrell’s spokeswoman today.
Josep Borrell spoke today with Iraqi Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein about “what to do with the growing number of Iraqi citizens crossing into Lithuania illegally from Belarus,” the statement said.
Lithuania reported a record number of migrants entering illegally on 28 July. 171 illegal crossings on the border with Belarus, announced the Lithuanian border guards. As a result, the total number of migrants caught this year rose to more than 3,000 from 81 for the whole of last year.
The issue is worrying “not only for one member state, but for the entire EU. We are counting on Iraq’s support,” Borel said on Twitter.
“A route has been set up. Iraqi migrants are transported from Baghdad to Minsk, then by bus to the Lithuanian border, which they cross illegally. This is Belarus’ response to the sanctions,” Josep Borrell said in an interview published today by the Spanish daily Pais.
“Unfortunately, migrants are being used as weapons again,” he said.
EU member states are preparing new economic sanctions against the government of President Alexander Lukashenko, which are expected to be tougher. The proposals will be presented to EU foreign ministers at their meeting on September 21st, European diplomatic sources said.
Alexander Lukashenko has repeatedly threatened the EU that it will allow people coming from war zones to cross the country’s borders to bloc issues in response to sanctions imposed on his country.
Lithuania, which has a 680km border with Belarus, is particularly hard hit. Due to the influx of migrants, Lithuania has recently tightened its asylum rules and started building a fence. But due to the lack of barbed wire, the construction of the border facility was stopped. Therefore, Estonia will provide the Lithuanian authorities with about 100 km of barbed wire from its reserves.
Resistance among Lithuanians themselves is also growing. Earlier this week, residents of several border towns demonstrated against the construction of new places to accommodate migrants. There were street blockages and clashes with police. The interior ministry has announced an investigation into the cases.