Migrant crisis: US, UK, Canada and EU announce new sanctions against Belarus

The United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union (EU) and Canada announced, Thursday, December 2, new economic sanctions against Belarus, accused of “Repeated human rights violations” and to feed a vast migratory crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border by issuing visas to refugees and sending them there.

“We again ask the regime [du président biélorusse Alexandre] Lukashenko to immediately and completely stop the organization of irregular migration across its borders with the EU ”, underline the Western countries in a joint statement. “The depth of absurdity” of this decision “Begins to defy all logic”, reacted the Belarusian foreign ministry in a statement. Minsk will retaliate by taking “Severe and asymmetrical measures, but adequate”, he warned.

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Minsk is accused of having orchestrated, since the summer, the influx of migrants to its border with Poland in revenge for Western sanctions taken after the repression of the opposition denouncing the contested re-election of Mr. Lukashenko in 2020 – this that he denies. Since then, the migratory pressure on the Polish borders, but also Lithuanian, does not cease increasing.

Punishments “Demonstrate our unwavering determination to act in the face of a brutal regime that increasingly represses Belarusians, undermines peace and security in Europe, and continues to exploit people who seek only to live in freedom”, underlined in another statement the head of the American diplomacy, Antony Blinken.

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Thousands of soldiers along the border

The US Treasury Department has announced that it is targeting twenty individuals and twelve organizations close to power, accused of having “Ease the passage (…) migrants within the EU ”, and to have “Took part in the ongoing repression against human rights and democracy”.

On the European side, the EU’s sanctions list was officially extended on Thursday to twenty-eight officials and entities, including the national airline Belavia. The seventeen officials and eleven entities are added to the EU’s blacklist on Belarus, which already contains 166 names, including those of President Lukashenko and two of his sons. The sanctions consist of an asset freeze and a ban on entry into the EU.

Newly targeted by Brussels and Washington, the state tourist company Tsentrkurort is accused of “Play a key role” in the organization of the passage of migrants. The United Kingdom for its part announced to sanction eight additional individuals as well as the state enterprise Belaruskali, “One of the world’s largest producers of potash-based fertilizers”, according to a statement from British Foreign Minister Liz Truss.

According to the latest figures from the European Commission adopted at the end of November, nearly 8,000 migrants from Belarus arrived on EU territory in 2021: 4,285 in Lithuania, 3,255 in Poland and 426 in Latvia.

Poland on Tuesday extended by three months the ban on access to the border region with Belarus, imposed in September after the start of the migration crisis. Access to the border area remains prohibited to any non-resident, including members of NGOs helping migrants, according to the new measures. Journalists, who were previously banned there, will now be able to apply for special permission.

In response to tensions with Belarus and the presence of thousands of migrants at its gates, mostly from the Middle East, Poland built a barbed wire fence and massed thousands of soldiers along its 400-kilometer border.

Polish media estimate that at least a dozen people have died on both sides of the border, trying to cross this wooded area into the EU.

Our selection of articles on the migrant crisis on the border between Belarus and Poland

The World with AFP

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Migrant crisis: US, UK, Canada and EU announce new sanctions against Belarus