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Belarus begins repatriation of hundreds of migrants

DW, 19 Nov 2021
Iraq began the voluntary repatriations of its citizens from Belarus on Thursday amid the ongoing humanitarian crisis near the border between Poland and Belarus. The Iraqi Ministry of Transport confirmed that the repatriated individuals arrived in the Kurdish city of Erbil. Iraq has appealed for Iraqi citizens to fly home, telling them the way into the European Union is closed. Some 431 people were on an Iraqi Airways flight from Minsk to Baghdad, Russian state-run Interfax reported.

Belarusian Authorities have said that some 7,000 migrants are in the country. President Alexander Lukashenko has proposed returning 5,000 migrants to their home countries and urged the EU to take 2,000 of the stranded migrants in a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer rejected an alleged Belarusian proposal to Merkel as "misinformation." Following talks with his Polish counterpart, Seehofer said that Germany "will not take in refugees."

The EU border agency Frontex is working with the Polish and Iraqi authorities on arranging charter flights from Poland. Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Iraq's Prime Minister Mustafa al-Khadimi told him flights to Minsk from Iraq will remain suspended.The Belarusian border force said later on Thursday that it had cleared an encampment at the border where about 2,000 people had been staying. Most of the occupants were relocated "on a voluntary basis" to a reception center nearby, they added. Polish border forces also confirmed that the camp had been evacuated. Most of the stranded migrants are from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen. They're fleeing conflict or despair at home and want to reach Germany or other Western European nations for a better life. But with Poland blocking their entry and EU leaders attempting to cut routes of travel, they have been stuck at the border and are facing dire conditions, with limited food, water and medical supplies and plummeting temperatures at night.

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