Thursday, December 9

EU wants to sanction “trafficking” of migrants orchestrated by Minsk

The European Union announced Tuesday its decision to sanction companies “complicit” in the transport of migrants to its borders, orchestrated according to Westerners by the President of Belarus Alexander Loukachenko.

“Europe is not facing a migration crisis, but an attempt at destabilization by a totalitarian regime not recognized by the EU”, accused the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen before the European Parliament in Strasbourg .

“The whole Union is being challenged,” she insisted. “We cannot admit this attempt at intimidation”, added the President of the Council Charles Michel.

The European Union has decided to respond on several fronts: sanctions, humanitarian aid, diplomatic pressure and support for the return of migrants to their countries of origin.

“The majority of Belavia’s fleet is made up of planes leased from EU companies,” said Charles Michel. “A decision will be taken to put an end to it. It is imminent,” he said.

The European Commission, for its part, announced that it had tabled a bill to sanction “companies complicit in the trafficking and smuggling of migrants”.

– “Cynicism” –

“The strategy of the Belarusian regime is based on the complicity of tour operators and their intermediaries. There are specialized travel agencies that offer all-inclusive deals: visa, plane ticket, hotel and quite cynically taxis and buses up to at the border, ”said Ursula von der Leyen.

“These migrants are deceived by infamous false promises,” she accused.

“This is why we are proposing to establish a blacklist for all means and modes of transport, on the basis of international legislation on trafficking and smuggling of migrants,” she announced.

“This proposal will have to be adopted in co-decision by the States and the Parliament”, she specified.

This legal framework will make it possible to sanction operators from third countries complicit in the transport of migrants by air, land or sea by limiting their operations in the EU, by suspending licenses and authorizations, by prohibiting overflight of the EU, transit and even technical stopovers, explained Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas.

But the urgency is also to come to the aid of migrants “trapped” in Belarus, he said. There are nearly 15,000, including 2,000 at the borders with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, he said.

An envelope of 700,000 euros has been allocated for humanitarian aid by the EU. “Belarus must guarantee lasting access to international agencies and respect the Geneva convention which prohibits refoulement,” he warned.

In addition, 280 million euros were granted to the three front-line countries – Poland, Lithuania, Latvia – to ensure the protection of their border with Belarus, as it is the common border of the EU, a he recalled.

Diplomatic action is also being carried out with countries of origin and with EU partners to repatriate migrants, mainly from the Middle East, and to avoid the use of their companies to transport them to Belarus.

Iraq has already taken back 432 people and another 600 returns are planned. The EU has earmarked a million euros to help these returns and resettlements, said Commissioner Schinas.

– “Influx under control” –

“I think we can consider the influx under control”, judged the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell. “But we are ready to take more sanctions against all those who participate in this human trafficking,” he warned.

The measures announced on Tuesday constitute the fifth package of sanctions adopted by the EU since the disputed re-election of Alexander Lukashenko in August 2020 and the crackdown on the opposition.

The president and 165 Belarusian regime officials are visa banned and their assets in the EU frozen.

Economic sanctions adopted in June hit the potash, petroleum, tobacco industries, and Belarusian airlines are banned in EU airspace and airports.

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