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9 Nov, 2021 15:29

EU could pay Belarus to end migrant crisis, Russia suggests

EU could pay Belarus to end migrant crisis, Russia suggests

Brussels’ migration policies are responsible for a worsening humanitarian crisis on the border between Poland and Belarus, Russia’s top diplomat has claimed, saying the EU could hand over cash to Minsk to help resolve the issue.

Speaking at a press conference after talks with Vatican representatives on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov argued that the growing standoff on the frontier was the fault of the EU. “The main responsibility for resolving the migrant crisis lies with those who made it possible for the crisis to start in the first place,” he said.

“EU countries need to have consistent standards when the question of admitting or refusing refugees comes up,” Lavrov went on. “Yesterday, at a political science discussion, the question was asked why, when refugees were coming through Turkey, did the EU allocate funds to enable them to stay in Turkey? Why is it impossible to help the Belarusians in this way?”

Brussels handed over €6 billion (almost $7 billion) to Istanbul from 2014 to the end of last year as part of a deal that saw Turkey house refugees, many fleeing the Syrian civil war, instead of allowing them to travel north to Central Europe. In June, it was reported that the bloc was considering extending existing programs, making another €3.5 billion available.

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Poland has mobilized thousands of police officers, border guards and soldiers in recent days in response to a sharp rise in the number of migrants attempting to cross over from neighboring Belarus. Warsaw and Brussels accuse Minsk of laying on flights from troubled states like Iraq and Iran, and then encouraging them to illegally enter Poland as part of a bid to put pressure on the EU over sanctions.

Belarus denies that it is responsible for the crisis, saying only that it is no longer prepared to stop would-be asylum seekers from reaching the border. Both Poland and nearby Lithuania have begun fortifying the demarcation line, laying down barbed wire and declaring states of emergency.

On Monday, Polish authorities deployed tear gas and riot shields to turn back those who attempted to breach the barbed-wire fence. Several people are understood to have died in recent weeks while sleeping rough near the frontier with the EU.

The UN’s refugee rights agency has urged Warsaw to ensure that those fleeing war and strife can access humanitarian assistance.

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