Air Route to Belarus Closed to Migrants in Bid to Halt Crisis


Dubai on Sunday started banning vacationers from Iraq from transiting via the emirate on their method to Belarus, reducing off the final main air route from the Middle East to Minsk in an effort to halt a humanitarian crisis that has left hundreds of individuals stranded at Belarus’s border with Poland.

Along with the Iraqis, Syrians additionally appeared to be blocked from boarding airways in Dubai, regardless of holding Belarusian visas, in accordance to journey brokers and passengers. Some had leveraged their life financial savings to make the journey.

The flight ban adopted an intense diplomatic marketing campaign by European Union members alarmed by a tide of hundreds of largely Iraqi migrants lured to Belarus when it loosened its visa guidelines in August. Hoping for a path into the European Union, they as an alternative discovered themselves in freezing forest camps on the border of Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.

The European Union has known as the strikes by Belarus an try to “weaponize” migrants and power a disaster in order to punish the E.U. for its criticism of its strongman chief, Alexander Lukashenko.

Over the course of the weekend, a number of airways in the area put in impact bans comparable to that imposed in Dubai. But the impact was extra rapid in Dubai, the place airline workers prevented some vacationers from boarding planes, successfully stranding them.

Some Kurds in Dubai, fleeing Iraq primarily for financial causes, mentioned that they had been prevented from boarding flights operated by Belavia, Belarus’s state-owned airline.

“Now we are waiting inside the airport cafeteria for the mercy of God,” mentioned Zanyar Kawan, 21, who like lots of the migrants is an Iraqi Kurd. “But it seems the mercy of God won’t come through.”

Another passenger, who requested to be recognized solely as Yousuf for worry of reprisals, mentioned Belavia workers had prevented at the least 50 vacationers from Sulaimaniya, a metropolis in Iraqi Kurdistan, from boarding a flight to Minsk from Dubai.

“Everything we have is legal regarding visas and tickets,” he mentioned. “Why is it only us Kurds cannot fly?”

Some passengers mentioned the ban had led them to abandon their plans to journey to Belarus and return to Iraq, however Yousuf, 20, mentioned he would go to the Belarusian Consulate in Dubai on Monday in the hopes of creating it work. “I don’t want to return,” he mentioned.

On Friday, Turkish carriers mentioned they might not fly Iraqi, Syrian and Yemeni passengers to Minsk, and on Saturday, Cham Wings, a Syrian airline, mentioned in a press release that it had suspended flights from Damascus to Minsk in response to the scenario on the Belarusian-Polish border.

The bans appeared to be reaching their targets.

In Iraq, journey brokers mentioned that they had begun telling purchasers not to go to Minsk. “I’m advising people not to go in these conditions, because nothing is guaranteed,” mentioned one agent, Arkan Othman.

It was not simply the bans, Mr. Othman mentioned. Even if his clients by some means made it to Belarus, many Iraqi migrants there have discovered themselves stranded in freezing temperatures on the border.

And if they’re ready to efficiently cross the border, migrants nonetheless want to discover their method out of the so-called restricted zone, via one in every of Europe’s oldest and densest forests, and to ship a message to native help teams.

On Friday, the physique of a Syrian man who had been attempting to cross the border was discovered, the native police mentioned. The authorities mentioned he was the ninth migrant to die attempting to make his was into the European Union.

But activists say that the true dying toll is way greater.

On the Polish aspect of the border with Belarus, the scenario remained tense on Sunday, with a heavy presence of cops and troopers. The authorities in Warsaw has barred all nonlocal residents, together with journalists and medical doctors, from approaching the border.

The polish police said Sunday that they detained 22 Iraqi residents out of fifty individuals who crossed the border close to the city of Starzyna, about 80 miles from the place the migrants are gathered in Belarus.

Belarusian troopers have been recorded destroying the fences that demarcate the border with Poland and blinding Polish models with strobe lights and laser beams, Poland’s border guard mentioned on Twitter.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland mentioned in an interview Sunday with the Polish Press Agency that the scenario on the border “has gone too far,” and prompt that together with Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, Poland might invoke Article 4 of the NATO Treaty, which requires navy session when a member state’s territorial integrity has been threatened.

A Polish soldier additionally died on the border late on Saturday of a gunshot, which the authorities known as an accident.

Sangar Khaleel contributed reporting from Sulaimaniya, Iraq.

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