HomeBelarusBelarus has frozen an agreement with the EU on migrants

Belarus has frozen an agreement with the EU on migrants

Members of the Belarusian parliament have voted to suspend the agreement with the EU, which obliges the former Soviet republic to take back migrants who crossed its territory on the way to Europe, according to the Associated Press.

The vote in the upper house of the Belarusian parliament, which took place late last night, was in line with a decision announced in June by President Alexander Lukashenko. Both he and other officials in Minsk say the measure is part of Belarus’ response to EU sanctions, arguing that Belarus cannot afford the cost of halting the flow of migrants to Europe. Instead, the money will be used to compensate for the impact of European sanctions, Minsk emphasizes.

Belarusian Interior Minister Ivan Kubrak told parliament that suspending the readmission agreement was a temporary solution. Implementation of the agreement can be resumed “after the relationship improves,” he added.

In recent months, Poland and Lithuania have been trying to cope with an unusually large number of migrants, mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan, who have reached their borders with Belarus. Warsaw and Vilnius accuse Lukashenko of using migrants as a weapon in a “hybrid war” against the EU launched in response to sanctions imposed by Minsk.

Brussels imposed its sanctions after the Belarusian government suppressed anti-government protests last year. Sanctions were tightened this year after a passenger plane was diverted to arrest an opposition journalist.

Poland has responded to large-scale migration by deploying armed forces, refusing migrants asylum and forcing some of them to return to Belarus. Warsaw’s harsh approach has drawn criticism from human rights groups, and the influential Polish Catholic Church has called for humanitarian assistance to migrants.

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