The European Union has summoned Belarus's top diplomat in Brussels and talked to Iraqi officials about suspending that country's flights to Minsk amid accusations that Belarus has "weaponized" migrants to create problems at the bloc's eastern border.
A spokesperson said the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, summoned the Belarusian envoy on August 5 to protest a refugee problem that Minsk has orchestrated in response to EU sanctions. "These practices must stop and Belarus must respect its international commitments in combating irregular migration and human trafficking and migrant smuggling," the unnamed commission spokesman was quoted as saying.
Most of the roughly 4,000 migrants detained by Lithuanian border guards at its frontier with Belarus this year are Iraqis.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and other EU officials are reportedly trying to work with the government in Baghdad to stem the flow of Iraqi nationals even as Minsk has pledged to increase direct flights and add more Iraqi cities. Speculation has arisen that EU interior ministers might convene a rare mid-July meeting to confront the problem at member Lithuania's lightly protected border.
On August 4, Lithuania dismissed Belarusian allegations that an Iraqi man was beaten and died after being turned away at the Lithuanian border, describing it as “disinformation.”
Lithuanian authorities said this week that they had authorized border guards to start pushing back illegal migrants, including with the use of force if necessary. Lithuanian and European officials say the migrant flows are being orchestrated by Alyaksandr Lukashenka in retaliation for EU sanctions over his government's crackdown on the opposition following Belarus's presidential election nearly a year ago that was widely regarded as fraudulent.