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18 Oct, 2021 14:41

‘Head of a state-run smuggling ring’: German FM Maas slams Belarus’ Lukashenko as migrant situation on EU border deteriorates

‘Head of a state-run smuggling ring’: German FM Maas slams Belarus’ Lukashenko as migrant situation on EU border deteriorates

With increasing numbers of migrants stuck in no-man’s-land on the border between Belarus and the EU, the German foreign minister has hit out at Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, accusing him of running a smuggling ring.

Speaking on Monday, before a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Luxembourg, Heiko Maas called on the bloc to make it clear to Minsk that Brussels had had enough.

“Lukashenko is nothing more than the head of a state-run smuggling ring,” Maas told the press. “We are no longer willing to watch while companies, such as airlines, earn money from bringing refugees to Germany or other European countries. We need sanctions to make it clear that we are no longer willing to accept this behavior.”

Maas is the latest in a long line of officials from EU countries to call for actions to be taken against Minsk in the wake of a crisis that has seen thousands of asylum seekers attempt to cross the border of Belarus into Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia.

The build-up of migrants began after Lukashenko warned that his country would no longer make any effort to stop illegal immigration. The EU has claimed that the government in Minsk is flying in people from abroad and is shuttling them to the frontier as a form of warfare. The majority are from the Middle East.

Also on rt.com Poland ‘illegally’ refused entry to asylum seekers at border with Belarus, stranding them without food, water & shelter – Amnesty

The number of migrants has grown significantly in the past few months, and now the EU countries bordering Belarus are seeing asylum applications grow an order of magnitude higher than previous years.

“Even though the situation seems under control, the flows are actually not diminishing,” Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told the press before the same EU meeting.

“What tools do countries like Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland need to use, or can they use, in order to stop the weaponized migration that is being forced on the European Union?” he said, cited by the news agency AP.

The bloc’s treatment of migrants from Belarus has been subject to criticism by human rights organizations, including London-based NGO Amnesty International. Last month, the group lambasted Poland in particular, accusing it of illegally stranding 32 Afghan migrants, leaving them without access to clean water, shelter, and medicine.

“Poland has been cruelly holding this group of people on their border in horrendous conditions for weeks,” said Eve Geddie, director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office.

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