Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko is transporting Iraqi immigrants to Minsk and helping them illegally cross the border into Lithuania, as he makes good on a threat to “flood the EU with drugs and refugees.”
Flights between Bagdad and Minsk have doubled in the last month, as a Belarusian state-owned travel agency flies the would-be immigrants to the EU into Minsk, where they are automatically given entry visas.
The migrants are then bussed to the 650-km border between Belarus and Lithuania where state agents help them cross illegally into the EU, according to reports.
The number of illegal immigrants has grown so rapidly that Lithuania has built a camp near the border to hold over 300 people that have detained as police struggle to arrest the migrants crossing into Lithuania.
“Illegal immigration has doubled in Lithuanian from the Belarusian direction. Vilnius is building a migrant tent camp on the immediate border with Belarus that can accommodate up to 350 people. Earlier this year, Lukashenko threatened in a Gaddafian style that he would allow illegal immigrants and drugs to flood the EU. Lukashenko appears to be keeping his word,” political analyst Dionis Cenusa said on Twitter.
The opposition Telegram news channel NEXTA released a Belarusian authorities started to smuggle illegal immigrants from Iraq to Europe. A video shows Lithuanians building a temporary camp for migrants coming from Belarus. Lithuania says a state of emergency could be declared if the situation gets worse. Meanwhile, we received 1/4 pic.twitter.com/xR86pUCvnd
Belarusian authorities started to smuggle illegal immigrants from Iraq to Europe. A video shows Lithuanians building a temporary camp for migrants coming from Belarus. Lithuania says a state of emergency could be declared if the situation gets worse. Meanwhile, we received 1/4 pic.twitter.com/xR86pUCvnd— Tadeusz Giczan 🇺🇦 (@TadeuszGiczan) June 12, 2021 that shows Lithuanians building a temporary camp for migrants coming from Belarus.
“Lithuania says a state of emergency could be declared if the situation gets worse. Meanwhile, we received information that Belarusian authorities have not only opened [the] Belarus-Lithuania border for illegal immigrants from Iraq, but are actively involved in trafficking. The scheme involves Tsentrkurort travel company (controlled by Lukashenko) and Iraqi Airways,” NEXTA editor-in-chief Tadeusz Giczan said in a tweet.
“Hundreds of Iraqis arrive to Belarus every week. The number of flights from Baghdad to Minsk doubled in the last month (from 2 to 4 per week + they replaced Boeing 737 with a larger 777). At Minsk Airport no one checks the Iraqis who booked with Tsentrkurort, they automatically get entry visas,” Giczan added. “Then they get to the border and Belarusian border guards help them to get to Lithuania. The service costs $3-6k. Middle Eastern students in Belarus say more and more people in Iraq and Syria are becoming aware of the new scheme and are planning to get to the EU via Belarus.”
The flow of immigrants has been going on for several weeks already and Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite already raised the alarm on June 6.
"We heard Lukashenko's statements that they will flood us with migrants and drugs, but we've been observing that increase in the flow of illegal migrants for some time already. If we compare the figures, so we have 189 illegal migrants from Belarus this year, which is double from last year," she said during a sitting of the Lithuanian parliament's Committee on National Security and Defence.
Lukashenko has openly threatened the EU, saying last month that "we were stopping migrants and drugs – now you will catch them and eat them yourselves".