Belarus says it has helped more than 100 migrants leave
Kiev – Belarusian authorities say they helped more than 100 migrants leave the country on Monday and that more are ready to leave on Tuesday, in a statement that comes after nearly two weeks of tensions at Belarus’ border with Poland, where hundreds of migrants are still stranded.
Belarusian Interior Ministry officials said Tuesday that 118 migrants left the capital, Minsk, on Monday for their countries of origin, after “the authorities of the former Soviet state helped them with paperwork and passage across state borders.”
The authorities are carrying out this work “on a daily basis” and another group of migrants is expected to leave Belarus on Tuesday, Alexei Begun, head of the ministry’s citizenship and immigration department, said. Begin did not mention the nationality of the migrants or the countries to which they had left.
Last week, more than 400 Iraqi migrants left Belarus on an evacuation flight organized by the Iraqi authorities.
Since November 8, a large group of people, mostly from the Middle East, has been stranded in Belarus at a border crossing with Poland, with troops from the two countries trapped facing each other. Most are fleeing conflict or feeling hopeless at home, aiming to reach Germany or other Western European countries.
The West has accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of luring migrants to the border to use them as hostages to destabilize the 27-nation European Union in retaliation for the sanctions it imposed on his authoritarian government. Belarus denies masterminding the crisis, which has seen migrants enter the country since the summer and then try to cross into Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.
About 2,000 people are currently staying at a storage facility near the border with Poland. Lukashenko said a total of 7,000 migrants are still in the country.
A spokesman for the Polish security services, Stanislaw Zarin, estimated that there are now about 10,000 immigrants in Belarus.
Officials from the International Organization for Migration and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees arrived in Belarus on Tuesday to discuss aid delivery and paperwork needed to repatriate migrants.
Monika Sislowska contributed to this report from Warsaw, Poland.
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