The European Union is accusing Belarus of orchestrating a hybrid war by sending migrants to its border with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. To counter the Belarusian dictator’s threats, the bloc has issued a series of economic sanctions.
But according to a new report by Germany’s Der Spiegel, Brussels’ measures against Lukashenko’s regime are “full of holes”.
The EU sanctioned parts of the oil and fertiliser industries but the German report revealed that large fertiliser manufacturer Belaruskali, for example, is still allowed to export potash salts with a potassium content of 40 to 62 percent – precisely the products that fertiliser giants like the Norwegian Yara group depend on.
They added: “The oil industry doesn’t seem to have been hit that hard either.
“According to the Belarusian news agency Belta, the export of oil products to Estonia was at a record level in 2021.
“The timber industry, which is important for Lukashenko, has so far been completely spared sanctions.
“It was recently announced that the Austrian timber company Kronospan is starting construction of its fourth plant in the country.”
Migrants began making their way to Belarus’ western border — which doubles as the EU’s eastern frontier — since this summer.
Many believe that Mr Lukashenko allowed the build up in reaction to a number of sanctions slapped on Belarus after allegations of human rights abuses, and after a RyanAir flight was diverted to Minsk.
Since the first migrants reached the border, thousands have made similar journeys, attempting to cross into the EU and claim asylum.
Most, however, have been stuck at the border which is covered in dense forest and, unable to cross, are currently living in freezing and inhumane conditions.
The nearly 600 migrants, from countries including Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria, are among thousands who flew to Belarus this year and tried to cross the forested border into Poland.
Staff and volunteers of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are working to register people willing to go back. But some are reluctant to do so, having spent thousands of dollars to get this far.
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A migrant from Syria who gave his name as Yemen Jndali told Reuters: “My plans are to stay, because I can’t go to the forest or back to Syria. Syria is nothing. I don’t have anything. No house, school, work – I don’t have anything.”
Many small children are among the hundreds of people who spend their time sleeping, queuing for food, wandering aimlessly around the huge warehouse or playing half-hearted games of football.
Mohamed Refaad, senior operations coordinator with the IOM, said the government, local authorities and Belarusian Red Cross were all working to support the migrants but more help was still needed with food, shelter and education for the children.
He said: “We are working to increase efforts to supply all these needs.”