Why Belarus is weaponizing migrants at the EU’s border
A refugee is seen on 20 August, 2021 in Usnarz Gorny, Poland. Polish border guards have placed 32 Afghan citizens at the border.
Getty Images LONDON — European leaders should be paying more attention to Belarus and its weaponization of migrants, political analysts told CNBC, raising concerns over Minsk’s close ties with Moscow.| NurPhoto | Getty Images
LONDON — European leaders should be paying more attention to Belarus and its weaponization of migrants, political analysts told CNBC, raising concerns over Minsk’s close ties with Moscow.
Belarus and the EU have been at loggerheads for some time, in particular after Minsk forced a commercial airplane to land, arresting two political opponents of the regime who were on their way to Lithuania from Greece. Belarus authorities claimed it was an emergency that forced the plane to land.
The 27-member states of the EU stepped up sanctions against Belarus in the wake of the incident, but the tensions between the two sides continue to simmer.
Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland share a border with Belarus and have seen an increase in the number of refugees and migrants, including from Iraqi and Afghan citizens. Lithuania has started building a fence on its border with BelarusPoland, however has declared a state emergency.
Three countries accuse Belarus of bringing migrants from the Middle East into their country, then allowing them to cross its borders.
CNBC has been told by Bob Deen (senior research fellow at Clingendael) that the EU is facing a serious problem. The Belarusian regime is “exploiting weakness in the EU” and using refugees to their advantage, he said.
What is the problem?
This is why migration is such a weakness in European policymaking.
Recently, the European Commission (the EU’s executive branch) presented a plan for boosting its response to immigration issues. The EU relies heavily on the assistance of third countries to stop large inflows. This leaves the EU dependent on Turkey and Belarus.
While we cannot find common ground regarding how to manage immigration, opponents will not stop trying to take advantage of that.
Ursula von der Leyen
European Commission President
Sergio Carrera, head of justice and home affairs at the think tank CEPS, told CNBC there is a “vulnerability” in the EU with its dependence on other nations.
According to him, the bloc requires a “strong policy” in order to tackle this problem.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, acknowledged Wednesday that a more cohesive approach was needed.
Take a look at what has happened at our borders to Belarus. Minsk’s regime has made human beings a tool. They put people on planes, and basically pushed them to Europe’s border. Our opponents will keep targeting that as long we don’t find common ground about how to manage immigration,” she told the European Parliament, Strasbourg, France.
Experts want more information. The Commission has already supported Lithuania and Latvia in their efforts to address the problem.
“There are other countries observing [that],” Vytis Jurkonis, project director at the think tank Freedom House, told CNBC last month.
He said that “Today it was Belarus and tomorrow it could be Russia”, suggesting that migrants and refugees could be used by other countries to undermine the EU.
Brussels has concerns about Russia’s close ties to Belarus.
Russia participated in large-scale military exercises with Belarus during September. Up to 200,000 troops were involved, more than 80 aircraft and helicopters, more than 290 tanks and up to 15 ships, according to Russia’s defense ministry.
According to Russia’s defense ministry, the exercise took place in 9 Russian and 5 Belorussian areas.
Deen of Clingendael stated that further integration of Belarus into the Russian military was a security threat, and added that “the EU can’t just ignore what is going on there.”