Air route to Belarus closed to migrants in attempt to end crisis

Dubai began on Sunday barring Iraqi travelers from transit through the emirate en route to Belarus, cutting off the last major Middle Ea...

Dubai began on Sunday barring Iraqi travelers from transit through the emirate en route to Belarus, cutting off the last major Middle East air route to Minsk in an attempt to stop a humanitarian crisis which left thousands stranded on Belarus’ border with Poland.

Along with the Iraqis, the Syrians also appeared to be barred from boarding airlines in Dubai, despite holding Belarusian visas, according to travel agents and passengers. Some had used their savings to make the trip.

The flight ban follows an intense diplomatic campaign by members of the European Union alarmed by a tide of thousands of migrants, mostly Iraqis, drawn to Belarus when it eased its visa rules in August. Hoping to make their way to the European Union, they instead found themselves in forest freezing camps on the border of Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.

The European Union has called Belarus’ measures an attempt to “arm” migrants and force a crisis in order to punish the EU for its criticism of its strongman, Alexander Lukashenko.

Over the weekend, several airlines in the region implemented bans similar to those imposed on Dubai. But the effect was more immediate in Dubai, where airline workers prevented some travelers from boarding planes, effectively blocking them.

Some Kurds in Dubai, fleeing Iraq mainly for economic reasons, said they had been prevented from boarding flights operated by Belavia, the Belarusian state-owned airline.

“Now we are waiting inside the airport cafeteria for God’s mercy,” said Zanyar Kawan, 21, who, like many migrants, is an Iraqi Kurd. “But it looks like God’s mercy will not come.”

Another passenger, who asked to be identified only as Yousuf for fear of reprisal, said Belavia employees prevented at least 50 travelers from Sulaimaniya, a city in Iraqi Kurdistan, from boarding a flight to Minsk. from Dubai.

“Everything we have is legal when it comes to visas and tickets,” he said. “Why can’t we, the Kurds alone, fly? “

Some passengers said the ban led them to abandon plans to travel to Belarus and return to Iraq, but Yousuf, 20, said he would visit the Belarusian consulate in Dubai on Monday in the hope that it works. “I don’t want to come back,” he said.

Turkish carriers on Friday said they would not carry Iraqi, Syrian and Yemeni passengers to Minsk, and on Saturday Cham Wings, a Syrian airline, said in a statement it had suspended flights from Damascus to Minsk in response to the situation at the Belarusian-Polish border.

The bans seemed to achieve their goals.

In Iraq, travel agents said they started telling customers not to travel to Minsk. “I advise people not to leave under these conditions, because nothing is guaranteed,” said an agent, Arkan Othman.

It wasn’t just the bans, Mr Othman said. Even though his clients made it to Belarus, many Iraqi migrants found themselves stranded in freezing temperatures at the border.

And if they manage to cross the border successfully, the migrants have yet to find their way out of the so-called restricted area, through one of the oldest and densest forests in Europe, and send a message to the groups. local help.

The body of a Syrian who tried to cross the border was found on Friday, local police said. Authorities said he was the ninth migrant to die trying to find his way into the European Union.

But activists say the actual death toll is much higher.

On the Polish side of the border with Belarus, the situation remained tense on Sunday, with a strong presence of police and military. The Warsaw government has banned all non-local residents, including journalists and doctors, from approaching the border.

Polish police said sunday that they detained 22 Iraqi citizens out of the 50 people who crossed the border near the town of Starzyna, about 80 miles from where the migrants are gathered in Belarus.

Belarusian soldiers were recorded destroying the fences that mark the border with Poland and blinding Polish units with strobe lights and laser beams, Polish border guard said on Twitter.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in an interview with the Polish News Agency on Sunday that the situation at the border “has gone too far”, and suggested that with Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, Poland could invoke article 4 of the NATO treaty, which calls for a military consultation when the territorial integrity of a member state is threatened.

A Polish soldier also died on Saturday evening at the border from a gunshot, which authorities described as an accident.

Sangar Khaleel contributed reporting from Sulaimaniya, Iraq.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Air route to Belarus closed to migrants in attempt to end crisis
Air route to Belarus closed to migrants in attempt to end crisis
Newsrust - US Top News
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