Migrant Crisis at the Belarus-EU border

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    • There has been a sudden surge of migrants, including women and children, at the Belarus-Poland border, causing tensions to rise between the two countries.
      • The migrants mostly from West Asia, including Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, have made several attempts to cross over into Poland with the aim of seeking asylum in a European Union (EU) country. 

    About the crisis

    • Massive protests: Belarus was rocked by months of massive protests following the August 2020 election that gave authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko a sixth term in office. The opposition and the West rejected the result as a sham.
    • Fierce crackdown: Belarusian authorities responded to the demonstrations with a fierce crackdown that saw more than 35,000 people arrested and thousands beaten by police.
      • The European Union and the US reacted by imposing sanctions on Lukashenko’s government.
    • EU Sanctions: The EU has barred Belarusian carriers from its skies and cut imports of the country’s top commodities, including petroleum products and potash, an ingredient in fertilizer.
      • The EU accused Belarus of using the migrants as pawns in a “hybrid attack” against the 27-nation bloc in retaliation for the sanctions.
      • Belarus denies encouraging the flow of migrants and said the EU is violating migrants’ rights by denying them safe passage.
    • Border: Belarus’ borders with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia are also the eastern borders of both the EU and NATO.

    Response by EU countries

    • Lithuania: Introduced a state of emergency to deal with small groups of migrants and strengthen its border with Belarus. It set up tent camps to accommodate the growing number of migrants.
      • Lithuania allege that the whole crisis was orchestrated by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
    • Poland: The Polish Prime Minister said in Parliament that the situation at the border was the effect of Russia’s efforts to destabilise a region it had controlled during the Cold War era. 
    • The EU: It has made a strong show of solidarity with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. EU officials are expected to discuss another round of sanctions against Belarus.

    Russia’s role

    • Main ally: Belarus has received strong support from its main ally, Russia.
    • Arab Spring uprisings: Russia says the migrant flows resulted from the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Western-backed Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.
      • He challenged the EU to offer financial assistance to Belarus to deal with the influx.
    • Russia has also squarely blamed the EU for the migrant crisis, arguing that it was EU’s refusal to accept asylum-seekers that is creating the crisis.

    Way Ahead

    • With the EU set to impose further sanctions on Belarus, Poland determined to keep the migrants out, Belarus unwilling to take measures to aid the migrants camping out in the forests without food or water, and winter closing in, the fate of thousands of migrants remains dire.
    • The EU, for its part, should stop its blind declarations of solidarity with Poland and put pressure on the government to work immediately on a humane solution for the people on the border, perhaps with the help of international organizations.

    Source: TH