A natural crisis or a deliberate hybrid war tactic?
After the EU decided to penalize the Belarussian government for forcibly landing a Ryanair flight and arresting a dissident in May this year, Lukashenko said he would no longer stop the flow of illegal immigrants seeking to enter the EU via Belarus. However, there is a reasonable suspicion that the current crisis has been caused by a deliberate, artificial increase in the flow of migrants. There is really no evidence for this version.
During this year, about 1,400 migrants have arrived in Lithuania illegally across the Belarusian border – about 16 times more than last year. In the first weeks of July alone, almost 800 border crossers from different countries were already detained. It is believed that the vast majority of migrants caught this year come from Iraq, but also from Syria, Gambia, Guinea, India and other countries.
From Minsk Airport to Lithuania – without documents?
Belarus is very far from these countries of origin and is by no means the shortest route for illegal migrants to reach their desired destination, the EU. Lithuanian officials have repeatedly emphasized that the flow of migrants is likely to be deliberately diverted by the Belarussian government, as evidenced by the sudden increase in direct flights from Iraq and Turkey.
On Wednesday, the Lithuanian prime minister accused the Lukashenko regime of organizing a special campaign – offering migrants direct flights from Istanbul and Baghdad airports to Minsk. EU ObserveAccording to the Lithuanian authorities, 63 flights arrived from Istanbul in the first half of June (twice as many as last year) and 9 flights from the Iraqi capital Baghdad, although there were no regular flights before.
Consequently, there are also suspicions that economic migrants have used these opportunities offered by Belarus to transport money to places where it is easier to cross the EU’s external border.
Airline tickets were found at several migrants, but most were unable to present any identification documents.
How to solve Lithuania’s current problem?
It is not really clear how exactly Lithuania could cope with the flow of migrants. One option would be to deport migrants back to their home countries, but this would require separate bilateral agreements with a number of different countries. Given that some of the countries from which migrants have come in are not too focused on cooperating with the West, this could prove more difficult than it might seem.
The example of Belarus is not the only one
If Lukashenko really facilitates the flow of migrants to the countries of the European Union, then the President of Belarus has joined the family of world leaders who use the migration aspect to achieve political goals. For example, Turkish President Regepi Tajib Erdogan has long threatened to open the gates of his country to the flow of Syrian refugees to European Union countries. Similarly, the overthrown Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi once sought to position himself as a shield for migratory flows from African countries. Finally, it must be borne in mind that a diplomatic dispute has recently erupted between Morocco and Spain, as the Moroccan Government has allegedly done nothing to stop the flow of migrants to Spanish-owned Ceuta.