Turkey’s civil aviation authority said on Friday that the country was stopping the sale of airline tickets to Iraqi, Syrian and Yemeni nationals wishing to travel to Belarus, a route for migrants and refugees to enter the European Union in recent months. has been made.
EU leaders have stepped up pressure on airlines to prevent people from the Middle East from bringing people into Belarus’ capital Minsk, from where asylum seekers in search of a better life have traveled by car to the EU’s doorstep.
Thousands have managed to cross illegally into EU member states Poland, Lithuania and Latvia since the summer, although many others have also been barred from entering or pushed back.
Among them are Iraqi Kurds and Syrians fleeing conflict, persecution or poverty. Many aim to reach Germany or other Western European countries, sometimes to reunite with relatives already settled there.
In a brief statement posted on Twitter, Turkey’s aviation authority said its decision to halt ticket sales was valid until further notice.
Citing Turkey’s decision, Belarusian airline Belavia said it would also not take citizens of Iraq, Syria and Yemen on its Istanbul-Minsk flights starting Friday. Belavia said in a statement that it plans to reimburse the cost of tickets already purchased.
The European Union said it had also received confirmation that Iraqi Airlines would not resume flights to Minsk.
European Union and Polish officials have accused Belarus’s longtime leader, President Alexander Lukashenko, of allowing illegal border crossings in retaliation for sanctions imposed on his government by the European Union for brutal crackdown on dissent after Lukashenko’s controversial reunification last year. accused of.
The German Federal Police reported on Wednesday that 1,246 unauthorized entries were recorded in Germany “with connections to Belarus” in the first nine days of November. German police said there had been a total of 9,087 entries so far this year.
Polish officials said large numbers of people live across the border in neighboring Belarus and Polish border guards continue to thwart attempts to enter Poland illegally every day.
There are now hundreds of people, including families with children, living in makeshift camps in the Belarusian region of the border. Attempts to cross have become increasingly dangerous as Poland fortifies its part of the border and pushes people back. At the Poland-Belarus border, the temperature drops below zero at night.
A Polish official said the country’s ongoing conflict with the Belarusian government was not expected to subside in the coming days. National Security Bureau chief Pavel Soloch said Poland was facing a “psychological, hybrid war, waged consciously by centers that seek to undermine or ultimately destroy our country.”
Poland’s border guards said the previous day they had recorded 223 attempts to illegally cross the Polish border from Belarus, fewer than the week before.
Poland’s defense ministry said a group crossed a fence in the village of Kuznica, but were stopped by officials. The ministry posted a video in which it said the incident was shown.
The Border Guards Agency posted another video on Twitter that it said showed Belarusian personnel using a green laser at the border.
“We believe this was an attempt to blind our officers and soldiers patrolling the border,” the post said.
The information was impossible to verify. Freelance journalists face limitations for their reporting in Belarus, and a state of emergency in Poland’s border region prevents media from entering the area.
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