2021.10.18 10:33

After Baltic push, EU to squeeze Belarus' Belavia to stop migrant ‘trafficking’

LRT.lt2021.10.18 10:33

In response to a request from the Baltic states and Poland, the EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday may back a call to ban European countries from leasing jets to Belarus’ state-owned airline Belavia.

The EU has banned Belavia from using its airspace, but Ireland remains the “EU’s hub for aircraft leasing”, including to Belavia, according to Politico Europe news website. The jets are then used in commercial flights that bring people from African and Middle Eastern countries to Minsk, who then attempt to cross irregularly into Poland, Lithuania, or Latvia.

Baltic officials, as well as Brussels, say that Minsk is using irregular migration as a way to punish the bloc for its sanctions against the regime.

At least several people have now died and dozens are routinely stranded on the border, with Belarus’ officers preventing the migrants from returning, while Polish and Baltic guards push the people back to Belarus.

Read more: Migration Crisis

According to Politico, “the EU has been more successful at applying pressure abroad than at home” as Brussels has managed to get Baghdad to suspend flights from Iraq to Belarus.

However, when the Baltics and Poland asked to make EU companies stop leasing planes to Belavia, “the firms insist they are contractually bound to continue”, Politico said.

“It beggars belief that Belavia can still rely on aircraft leased from EU companies to pursue its trafficking operations on behalf of the murderous regime in Minsk,” a diplomat told Politico.

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland now want the EU to expand sanctions on Belarus to include Belavia, which would stop the aircraft leasing operations, according to diplomats approached by Politico.

“Germany and Ireland are also on board and are likely to back a call today to include Belavia in the next sanctions round,” Politico said.

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