German minister blames airlines on arrival of Belarusian migrants – CBS17.com

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FILE- In this photo taken on October 6, 2021, security guards stand in front of migrants in the Central Reception Center for Asylum Seekers (ZABH) in the state of Brandenburg in Eisenhüttenstadt, Germany. According to the German authorities, the number of migrants entering the country via Poland and Belarus has increased rapidly in recent months. (Patrick Pleul / dpa via AP)

BERLIN (AP) – The German Foreign Minister says airlines that fly potential migrants to Belarus in the European Union should ask themselves whether they want to be part of a “smuggling ring” run by the country’s authoritarian leader.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told the daily Bild newspaper on Thursday that there was a significant increase in the number of migrants arriving via Belarus and neighboring Poland.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is one of the EU leaders who, together with Poland, accuse the government of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of facilitating migration to the EU as a form of “hybrid war” in retaliation for EU sanctions.

Thousands of migrants have been lured into Belarus with tourist visas and encouraged to enter Poland, Lithuania and, to a lesser extent, Latvia, all three EU nations bordering Belarus.

“Hundreds of desperate people arrive at the Minsk airport every day. Lukashenko lures them with false promises to send them on a dangerous and illegal journey to the EU, ”Maas was quoted as saying to Bild. “The airlines that transport these people are helping those in power in Minsk.”

Maas did not name any airline. But he said, “these companies have to ask themselves whether they want to be part of an unscrupulous international smuggling ring under the leadership of Lukashenko – and what consequences that may have for them.”

He said the matter would be discussed at a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday.

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Follow AP’s global migration reporting at https://apnews.com/hub/migration

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