The geopolitical and diplomatic soap opera continues on the border between Belarus and Poland, the gateway to the European Union (EU). Minsk announced on Wednesday November 17 that it had obtained “Negotiations” with Brussels to resolve the current migration crisis, but the European Commission has only confirmed « discussions techniques » with the former Soviet republic on the repatriation of migrants to their country.
The Commission “Will hold technical discussions on repatriation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR], with the International Organization for Migration [OIM, associée à l’ONU] and with Belarus ”, said a spokesperson for the European executive, without giving further details. Belarus “Must give access to humanitarian aid and provide shelter to migrants in the country”, he reaffirmed.
These statements follow a telephone interview on Wednesday between Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the second in three days. Around 4,000 migrants, mostly from the Middle East, have been camping for days, in freezing temperatures and degraded conditions, along the Belarus-Poland border, hoping to be able to enter the country. EU.
Cooperation for humanitarian aid, according to Berlin
The West accuses Minsk of having orchestrated this influx since the summer, in response to Western sanctions against Belarus after the repression, in 2020, of a historic opposition movement. Since isolated on the international scene, Minsk argued on Wednesday that the appeal between Mme Merkel and Lukashenko had reached an agreement on the organization of talks between Belarus and the EU.
According to the statements of the Belarusian presidency, the two leaders have agreed that “The problem as a whole goes back to the Belarus-EU level and that officials appointed by each of the parties immediately start negotiations”. But this announcement was immediately qualified by Berlin, which only mentioned cooperation between Minsk and the EU to provide humanitarian aid to migrants stranded at the border.
“The Chancellor stressed the need to provide humanitarian aid and repatriation options for those affected” with the United Nations and “In cooperation with the European Commission”, declared, for his part, the spokesperson for Mme Merkel, Steffen Seibert.
Eleven dead since the start of the crisis
Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak warned on the same day that this crisis “Could last for months or even years”, claiming that migrants had again “Attacked the Polish border” overnight. The day before, Polish security forces had used tear gas and water cannons to push back a crowd that Warsaw accuses of having thrown stones while trying to cross the border.
Poland as well as the two other European neighbors of Belarus, Lithuania and Latvia, refuse to accept these thousands of migrants. Polish border guards said they recorded 161 attempts to “Illegal crossings”, including “Two attempts to forcefully”. Aid organizations say at least eleven migrants have died on both sides of the border since the crisis began this summer.
Belarus and Russia, who deny being the origin of the crisis and criticize the EU for not having welcomed these populations, condemned the use of force by Warsaw, while presenting themselves as protectors of human rights. Russian state television on Wednesday showed hundreds of migrants in a covered center set up by Belarusian authorities near the border where families spent the night.
For their part, Brussels and Washington announced on Monday that they wanted to broaden the punitive measures taken against Belarus in the coming days. Following strong pressure from the EU, Belarusian airline Belavia announced that Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans and Yemenis were now banned from flying from Dubai to Belarus. Turkey imposed the same restrictions last week. Iraq, for its part, announced a repatriation flight on Thursday for at least 200 of its nationals stranded at the border, including women and children.