EU Agrees New Sanctions on Belarus
By Staff, Agencies
The European Union decided to impose new sanctions against Belarus, accusing it of driving a crisis that has left thousands of migrants and refugees stranded in freezing forests on its borders with the EU.
The Western bloc is seeking to stop what it says is a policy by Belarus to push migrants towards it in revenge for earlier sanctions. Belarus has rejected the allegations.
The asylum seekers, who are mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan, began arriving on Belarus’s land borders with the EU this year, trying to cross into member states Lithuania, Latvia and Poland via routes not used before.
“This inhumane system of using refugees as tools to exert pressure on the European Union … has got worse over the last days,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday, pledging to target those involved in what he called “human trafficking”.
The top EU diplomat, Josep Borrell, said a fifth package of sanctions had been agreed by EU foreign ministers and would be finalized in the coming days.
They would target airlines, travel agencies and individuals involved in “this illegal push of migrants”, he said.
Later on Monday, Germany’s Angela Merkel spoke to her Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, while Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the crisis with French leader Emmanuel Macron, in an effort to resolve the issue.
Stranded on the Belarusian side of the border and increasingly desperate, the migrants and refugees have tried to force makeshift fences in several places in recent days.
Poland, which has reported 5,100 irregular attempts to cross the border so far in November, has been criticized for its treatment of those who make it through.