EU convenes Belarusian envoy on migrant flow to Lithuania
BRUSSELS, Aug.5 (Reuters) – The European Union summoned the Belarusian envoy to Brussels and held talks with the Iraqi government after accusing Belarus of using illegal migrants, mostly Iraqis, as a political weapon against the European sanctions imposed on Minsk.
A spokesperson said the European Commission summoned the envoy on Wednesday to protest a refugee problem Lithuania says Belarus orchestrated at its border in retaliation for EU sanctions.
“These practices must end and Belarus must respect its international commitments in the fight against irregular migration, trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants,” the Commission spokesperson said at a press conference.
Lithuania has reported an increase in illegal border crossings from Belarus and accused Minsk of bringing in migrants from abroad and sending them across the border.
Belarus decided in May to let migrants enter Lithuania in retaliation for EU sanctions imposed after Minsk forced a Ryanair flight to land on its soil and arrested a dissident blogger who was on board. President Alexander Lukashenko has declared that Belarus will not become a “waiting site” for migrants from Africa and the Middle East.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and other EU officials have also sought a solution with the Iraqi government which could include a suspension of flights from Baghdad to Minsk.
There is growing speculation that an extraordinary online meeting of EU home ministers will be held in mid-August, normally a holiday period for EU institutions, on the issue of migrants, although this remains to be confirmed.
Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop Editing by Mark Heinrich
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