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2021.10.18 16:00

All airlines involved in bringing migrants to Belarus could face EU sanctions – Lithuanian FM

BNS2021.10.18 16:00

Although migrant flows across the EU's border with Belarus are “under control”, the bloc needs to give more attention to the issue, according to Lithuania's Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis.

“Even though the situation seems under control, the flows [of irregular migrants from Belarus] are not diminishing,” Landsbergis commented ahead of the EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg.

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

“There are a number of new flights that are being opened up. We need to find the solution for how to stop it in Belarus.”

Earlier, Iraqi airlines suspended flights from Iraq to Minsk following an intervention by the EU. However, people still arrive in Belarus on flights from Istanbul, Dubai, and Damascus, according to the news website Belsat.

“I think that there's not enough understanding of the priority of this issue,” Foreign Minister Landsbergis said.

While the Eu has succeeded in convincing Iraq to restrict flights to Belarus, similar solutions are needed in talks with other countries, according to Landsbergis.

“We often get distracted” by new challenges, he said, adding that the EU needed to prioritise security.

Politico reported on Monday that EU foreign ministers would discuss new sanctions on Belarus and its national airline Belavia, banning it from leasing planes from EU-registered companies.

Read more: Migration Crisis

Ireland remains “the EU’s hub for aircraft leasing” and some Irish firms continue to lease planes to Belavia, according to the article.

Landsbergis confirmed that additional sanctions are being considered. He said, however, other airlines involved in the transport of migrants to Belarus could be facing sanctions.

“We need to send a message [...] that they are under the EU's radar and that it is not OK what they are doing,” he said.

Almost 4,200 irregular migrants, most of them Iraqi citizens, have crossed into Lithuania from Belarus so far this year. Vilnius has accused Minsk of orchestrating migrant smuggling, calling it “hybrid aggression”.

In a bid to stem the flow of migrants, Lithuania in early August introduced a pushback policy, stopping people from crossing the border.

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