Status: 11.12.2021 11:21 a.m.
Turkey no longer allows people with Syrian, Iraqi and Yemeni passports to fly to Belarus. The country is reacting to sanctions threats from the EU. The situation remains tense on the Polish-Belarusian border.
Under pressure from the EU, Turkey is no longer allowing citizens of several Arab states to fly to Belarus from its national territory. The civil aviation authority of Turkey announced that people with Syrian, Iraqi and Yemeni passports are no longer allowed to buy tickets or board until further notice. The EU had previously threatened sanctions against airlines transporting migrants to Belarus with the intention of illegally traveling to the EU. According to an EU official, one-way tickets for flights from Turkey to Minsk will no longer be sold.
The state-owned Belarusian airline Belavia will also no longer be able to use Turkish Airlines’ Middle East network to fly travelers via Istanbul to Minsk, it said. The airline came under fire after media reports that Turkey was targeting migrants to Belarus with the help of Turkish Airlines.
Turkish Airlines rejects allegations
The Polish government and the EU accuse ruler Alexander Lukashenko of allowing migrants to be brought into the country in order to then smuggle them into the EU. Turkish Airlines had denied the allegations. However, the airline would now have threatened EU sanctions if it had not participated in the crackdown on illegal migration. For example, flights to the EU could have been banned.
The measures now taken have been agreed by the Turkish authorities with a team led by EU Council President Charles Michel, it said in Brussels. Belavia also announced on its website that citizens from the three countries were no longer allowed to board their planes according to a decision by the Turkish authorities. Passengers affected by the ban could return their tickets at the point of sale and have their money refunded.
Poland: Belarus wanted to push people across the border
According to police reports, Polish security forces intervened several times at night on the border between Poland and Belarus to prevent illegal border crossings. Near the town of Kuznica, Belarusian soldiers tried to force a group of around 35 migrants across the border, the PAP agency quoted the local police spokesman Tomasz Krupa as saying. Accordingly, the majority of the migrants were women and children.
Much of the information from the border area cannot be conclusively verified because independent journalists have so far been denied access. The group of migrants was driven towards the border system made of barbed wire, it said. Polish police officers, border guards and soldiers prevented them from crossing the border.
According to the Polish police, there are still around 200 people in the area who are guarded by Belarusian soldiers. Dozens of security forces also intervened near the town of Polowce when a group of around 100 migrants gathered on the Belarusian side of the border. However, they would not have tried to cross the border.
Aid organizations get access to the border
On the Belarusian side of the border, representatives of several aid organizations visited the refugees in the tent camps, said the border guard in Minsk. According to the Belarusian authorities, around 2,000 people remain there, including many women and children who urgently need help. The UNHCR confirmed that representatives of aid organizations had visited the stranded people. It must now be a matter of preventing deaths and accommodating people in safe places in Belarus, it said in a UNHCR statement.