Belarus’s Lukashenko visits migrant centre near Polish border
President Alexander Lukashenko on Friday visited a center for the hundreds of migrants who remain in Belarus after trying to cross into the EU through the Polish border, state news agency Belta said.
“Migrants have gathered around the president, greeting him with applause,” reported Belta, who also posted photos of Lukashenko’s meeting with members of the Red Cross.
Thousands of migrants, mainly Iraqi Kurds, have spent months trying to enter the European Union from Belarus. The crisis escalated earlier this month with around 2,000 setting up a makeshift camp on the border in freezing conditions.
Western governments accuse Lukashenko of orchestrating the crisis by allowing migrants in and bringing them to the border in revenge for the sanctions imposed on his regime.
Belarus denies these claims.
The camp was cleared last week by border guards and the migrants moved to a nearby logistics center.
“We know them well and understand them, they are trying to enter Europe, where they were invited,” Lukashenko told the migrants at the center, according to Belta.
“We Belarusians and I, the Belarusian president, will do whatever he wants, even if it is bad for the Poles, the Latvians and anyone else,” he said.
He said Belarus “cannot start a war” to create a transport corridor from Poland to Germany.
“If someone wants to go west, it is their right. We will not try to catch him, hit him and hold him behind barbed wire, ”Lukashenko said.
He said that around 150 people were still “wandering” across the border.
Aid groups say at least 11 migrants have died on both sides of the border since the crisis began.
On Wednesday, Poland said that more than 200 migrants made their way across the border from Belarus with the help of Belarusian border guards and were sent back immediately.
Hundreds of Iraqis have returned home on voluntary repatriation flights from Belarus. Two more flights are expected on Friday and Saturday, according to Minsk airport.
Source Credit: TheGuardian