KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Friday promised food and warm clothes to migrants who choose to …
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Belarus’s President Alexander Lukashenko on Friday promised food and warm clothes to migrants who choose to stay at the border between the former Soviet nation and Poland and will not return to their homeland.
Lukashenko made the promise during a visit to a facility that houses migrants at the border.
“My job is to help you, people in difficulty,” Lukashenko said, addressing thousands of migrants during a visit to a facility that houses migrants at the Bruzgi warehouse. “We, Belarusians, myself included, will do whatever you want, even if it’s bad for Poles, Latvians and anyone else.”
“We will work with you on your dream,” Lukashenko added.
Lukashenko’s visit comes after weeks of tensions at the border, with hundreds of people still trapped. Since November 8, a large group of people, mainly from the Middle East, have been stranded in Belarus at a border crossing with Poland, trapped as forces from the two countries face each other. Most flee conflicts or a sense of hopelessness at home and aim to reach Germany or other Western European countries.
Mr Lukashenko again called on Germany to accept migrants.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert on Friday vehemently denied Lukashenko’s claims that Germany had agreed to accept 2,000 migrants in Belarus.
“It is not true that Germany agrees to this,” he told reporters in Berlin.
Videos and photographs taken by local media show the authoritarian leader of Belarus investigating the conditions at the crowded neighborhoods of migrants. Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti reported that crowds of migrants patted Lukashenko on his arrival.
Lukashenko said that apart from about 2,000 people at the border facility, another 2,000 to 3,000 more migrants currently remain in Belarus. He promised migrants that the Belarussian authorities would help them return to their home countries – but only if they wanted to.
“In no case will we detain you, tie your hands, load you on planes and send you home if you do not want it,” Lukashenko said.
Mr Lukashenko said some 200 migrants were still able to enter the EU illegally every day.
More than 170 people returned to Iraq’s northern Kurdish-driven region on Friday with another return flight expected later in the day. Last week, 430 Iraqis returned home after a failed attempt to reach the EU.
The West has accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of luring thousands of migrants to Belarus with the promise of help to come to Western Europe to use them as pieces to destabilize the EU’s 27 countries in retaliation for its sanctions against his authoritarian government. Belarus denies developing the crisis.
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