The Belarusian Parliament votes in favor of suspending readmission of migrants

Kiev – The legislature in Belarus has voted to suspend an agreement with the European Union that obliges the ex-Soviet nation to take back migrants who have crossed their territory into the EU.

The vote late Monday in the upper house of the Belarusian parliament formalized the move announced by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in June.

Lukashenko and his officials have described the measure as part of Belarus’ response to EU sanctions, arguing that the country cannot afford the cost of curbing the flow of migrants into Europe and would instead use the funds to reduce the EU’s impact -Sanctions.

Belarusian EU neighbors Poland and Lithuania have faced an unusually high number of migrants in recent months, most of them from Iraq and Afghanistan, who have arrived at their borders with Belarus in recent months. They have accused Lukashenko of encouraging the influx of migrants and using them as a weapon in what they call a “hybrid war” against the 27-nation bloc in retaliation for his sanctions against Belarus.

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EU sanctions came after the Belarusian government cracked down on anti-government protesters in 2020 and were tightened this year after Belarus forcibly diverted a passenger plane to arrest an opposition journalist.

Poland responded to the massive migration by sending troops, refusing migrants asylum applications and pushing some back across the border into Belarus. The tough approach has drawn criticism from human rights groups. Poland’s influential Catholic Church called for humanitarian aid to migrants on Monday.

Belarusian Interior Minister Ivan Kubrakov described the suspension of the readmission agreement in front of the Belarusian parliament as a “temporary measure” and added that the readmission agreement with the EU could come back into force “once relations have normalized”.

Pavel Latushko, a leader of the Belarusian opposition who lives in Poland, accused the Belarusian authorities of encouraging the influx of migrants into the EU.

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“Lukashenko is taking revenge on the EU by unleashing a hybrid war and using refugees to openly blackmail the European authorities,” Latushko told The Associated Press. “Migration is part of a broad campaign of confrontation with the West that is being carried out by the Belarusian authorities.”

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