European Commission president urges new sanctions against Belarus

Ursula von der Leyen warns Minsk to stop using migrants as leverage amid growing humanitarian crisis at Belarus-Poland border

Agnes Szucs   | 09.11.2021
European Commission president urges new sanctions against Belarus


European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for new sanctions Monday against Belarus in response to a growing migration crisis at its border with Poland.

“The instrumentalization of migrants for political purposes by Belarus is unacceptable,” Von der Leyen said in a statement after holding phone conversations with the leaders of European Union countries bordering the country.

On Monday, Polish authorities stepped up border protection and mobilized over 12,000 troops after a large group of migrants started marching towards the country’s frontier with Belarus.

According to the EU, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko wants to take revenge against EU sanctions imposed on his regime by inviting “tourists” from countries that are main sources of migration to the bloc.

In her statement, Von der Leyen warned Minsk that the “cynical instrumentalization of migrants will not help them succeed in their purposes” and called on EU member states to finally adopt the extension of sanctions on Belarusian authorities.

“The EU will in particular explore how to sanction, including through blacklisting, third country airlines that are active in human trafficking,” she pointed out.

She also noted that EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and EU Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas would travel soon to the countries of origin and transit to negotiate with authorities on stopping the flights to Belarus.

Since last October, the EU has imposed sanctions against 166 individuals and 15 entities from Belarus over human rights violations related to a crackdown on protests against rigged elections on Aug. 9, 2020.

In June, the bloc banned the overflight of EU airspace and access to EU airports for all Belarusian aircraft because of the forced diversion of a Ryanair flight to Minsk and the detention of Belarusian journalist Raman Pratasevich and his partner.

In August, EU countries bordering Belarus – Lithuania, Latvia and Poland – reported a dramatically growing number of irregular crossings.

According to the latest estimations from last month, over 6,000 migrants mostly from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria tried to enter the bloc via the Belarus-EU border compared to last year’s 150.

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