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How did thousands of immigrants get to the Belarusian-Polish border?

The migration crisis on the border between Belarus and Poland it has worsened in recent days, as thousands of people from the Middle East and Africa are trying to enter Polish territory.

Many of them arrive on flights from these countries to Belarus. For example, according to the Flightradar24 portal, in the next seven days there are 21 flights from Istanbul to Minsk, 12 from Dubai and one from Baghdad.

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But the portal does not count all the charter flights that are scheduled.

A large part of the passengers on these flights are possibly migrants who, with the tacit support of the Belarusian authorities, use this country as a transit point to reach Europe.

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1. How did this crisis start?

Since 2020, the Belarusian authorities have canceled or simplified visa requirements for 76 countries. Among these are several affected by serious conflicts, such as Syria, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, so many people are trying to get out of there.

Travel agencies from Syria, Iraq and Turkey have started selling trips to Belarus in which they offer housing and employment in a country of the European Union.

Dozens of messages of this type also arrive via WhatsApp, which is the most used messaging service in the region.

Immigrants at Minsk Airport: According to residents of the Belarusian capital, many are camping in the city’s underground passages and at the entrances of buildings.

Such a trip costs between $ 10,000 and $ 20,000, depending on conditions. The German portal Deutsche Welle pointed out in an investigation that the Belarusian consulates they even delegated the right to put visas of your country in the passports to these travel agencies.

Along with this, Belarus significantly increased the number of flights from Middle Eastern countries. Several countries in Europe denounce that even the Belarusian authorities are behind these offers promoted by travel agencies.

2. Where do the migrants come from?

In mid-2021, Iraq was the main starting point. In September, the high representative of the United Nations, Josep Borrell, managed to negotiate with the Iraqi authorities how to reduce these flights to Belarus.

Currently, the Kurds fleeing from Syria are the majority of those who they are trying to enter the European Union in this way. In Syria they are threatened not only by the Syrian regime, but also by Islamic State militants.

But there are also migrants who come from Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen and from various African countries where there are religious and political conflicts, such as Congo and Ethiopia.

3. How do they get to the border between Belarus and Poland?

Many of the flights are operated by airlines Belavia, Turkish Airlines y Qatar Airlines, and another low cost known as Fly Dubai.

Until recently, the refugee visa, if the passenger needed it, was granted at the airport itself when boarding.

At the departure gates of flights, it is impossible to identify passengers as migrants or refugees. They have money, all their documents are in order, their clothes are very similar, so for the most part there is no reason to prevent someone from boarding the flight.

What happens next is not clear. The videos that are known so far show that these passengers are transported, in a very organized way, from the Minsk airport to the border with Poland and Lithuania.

But until now it has been impossible to determine who organizes this logistics.

There are many children among the migrants and their situation could soon become very difficult.  (Getty Images).

There are many children among the migrants and their situation could soon become very difficult. (Getty Images).

4. How do migrants cross the border?

At the beginning of the migration crisis, the Polish and Lithuanian border guards let people through and then sent them to special facilities.

However, at the same time, the foreign ministers of both countries began to accuse Belarus to organize this new migratory phenomenon.

So, when hundreds and then thousands of people tried to cross the border every day, Poland and Lithuania closed the border crossing and began to fortify the border with fences full of barbed wire.

Now the border can only be crossed illegally, which still doesn’t stop migrants from trying.

Some try to get over the fences put up by the border guards (There were two incidents on November 9).

Others look for areas that are not guarded: for example, the border between Belarus and Poland stretches for more than 400 kilometers and much of it is covered with forests or swamps.

5. What about the Belarusian border guards?

Judging by dozens of statements by refugees and migrants themselves and by videos made public by the Lithuanian and Polish authorities in recent weeks, the Belarusian border service is directing refugees to cross illegally the border.

The website of the Belarusian border service publishes information on the migration crisis, but claims that many refugees do not even know that they need a visa to cross the border.

“Belarus is fulfilling its highest duty to stop illegal migration. The reasons (for this new flow) can be found in the support of EU countries for “color” revolutions (the term used to describe popular uprisings against certain governments) in regions where lives have been destroyed or there are wars, ”says the ministry’s website.

In an interview with the Belarusian newspaper Nasha Niva, an anonymous border officer described the activities of his department as “a complete devaluation of the laws and his oath”.

In this satellite image, migrants can be seen bordering the Belarusian-Polish border.  (MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES).

In this satellite image, migrants can be seen bordering the Belarusian-Polish border. (MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES).

6. Where do migrants end up going?

Both Poland and Lithuania are also transit countries for refugees and migrants. Many of them intend to go to Germany, France, Austria and the Netherlands, where they may already have relatives or acquaintances.

According to the German authorities, at least 5,000 people have come to Germany through Belarus.

7. Are refugees and migrants staying in Belarus?

Yes, but the authorities have never reported the exact number. According to Minsk residents, hundreds of people are camping in shopping malls, underground passages and entrances to residential buildings throughout the city.

Perhaps that is why, fearing that the situation will get out of control, in recent days the Belarusian authorities they have tightened the conditions for arriving in the country.

The most concrete action that has been known is that they stopped issuing visas at the airport for citizens of the countries considered most problematic: Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Yemen.

8. Is Russia involved in the migration crisis?

Officials in many EU countries believe so. For example, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said: “This attack being carried out (the President of Belarus) Lukashenko has his brain in Moscow. The mastermind is President Putin ”.

The Russian authorities categorically reject these accusations. The Russian president’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, called Morawiecki’s words irresponsible and unacceptable.

However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on President Putin to intervene in the crisis, which the European Union considers “a hybrid attack” aimed at destabilizing the bloc.

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