European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has called on EU authorities to agree to extended sanctions against Belarus and third-country airlines, after reports that thousands of migrants are still stranded at the Polish-Belarus border amid freezing temperatures to death, which has caused many deaths. of people since this crisis occurred.
Belarus must stop putting people’s lives at risk. I call for approval of the extended sanctions, and possible sanctions on third-country airlines. “We also want to prevent a humanitarian crisis and ensure a safe return,” President von der Leyen said.
She also revealed that she had spoken to the foreign ministers of Lithuania, Poland and Latvia – Belarus’ neighbors most affected by the influx of migrants.
According to the Guardian, Belarusian forces escorted 1,000 people towards the Polish border after poor conditions and low temperatures killed several people during their illegal crossing towards Western European countries, TheSchengen.com reports.
Footage released by Belarusian media shows border guards escorting the migrants, most of them from the Middle East, outside the border town of Brzzy toward a forest along Poland’s Podlaski region.
The same videos show Polish border guards using tear gas to support the crowd. A few of them tried to cut wires or cross barriers in an attempt to cross the border. Gunfire is also heard in the videos along with a voice saying that Belarusian forces opened fire – which they deny doing so, claiming that shots were heard by the Polish side of the border.
The tension between the European Union countries and Belarus comes in response to the latter’s president, Alexander Lukashenko, after he was criticized and punished for landing on a Ryanair plane bound for Lithuania in May, in which a Belarusian journalist and activist was traveling. Journalist Petr Protasevic was arrested at that time, and later some videos of him apologizing for his ideology circulated on the Internet.
Before that, Belarusians took to the streets to protest against the sixth election in Lukashenko’s row as president of Belarus, despite the public’s indignation and accusations of corruption by the population and his officials.
In response, Belarus has allowed itself to become a “gateway” for migrants heading to Poland, Germany and other EU member states.
An Iraqi Kurdish woman told the Guardian that a travel agency that included flights to Minsk and then take her to the EU’s external borders had taken her into the country. Moreover, it is said that people can be charged from €15,000 to €20,000 when they enter Belarus.
The Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang previously reported that the migrants’ documents show that they were pursued under false promises to come to Belarus.