Belarus funneled people to border with Poland, migrants say

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Nov. 13 (UPI) — The Belarusian government incentivized Middle Eastern migrants to seek refuge in the European Union, stoking a diplomatic and humanitarian crisis that’s claimed the life of a young Syrian.

The Polish police said on Twitter Friday that they had found the body of a young Syrian man near Wólka Terechowska, a village located along the Belarusian border. Police have not determined the cause of death.

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The death is the latest in an ongoing standoff on the countries’ border where thousands of migrants have gathered in hopes of settling in the European Union. Poland, along with the rest of the European Union, has accused Belarus of engineering the crisis in retaliation for economic sanctions for its government’s repressive rule.

New details have emerged on how Belarus actively facilitated the influx of migrants. The Belarusian government loosened its visa rules in August, opening an easier route to Europe than the dangerous sea crossing migrants have made from Turkey to Greece, migrants told The New York Times.

“I have heard that the situation is not good in Belarus, but I have to go because there is no life here, no job opportunities, no human rights, no equality and justice, no joy at all,” Amer Karwan, an Iraqi carpenter preparing to make the journey, told the Times.

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Belarus, a non-EU member led by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, increased flights by its state-owned airline and steered migrants toward the borders with Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, the Times reported. Belarusian security forces went as far as providing migrants with instructions on how to cross into EU countries, putting them up in government hotels in Minsk and giving them tools to cut through border fences, according to multiple Iraqi migrants.

Fleeing instability and unemployment, migrants borrow thousands of dollars for the uncertain journey, reports The Washington Post. Turkey on Friday banned citizens of Iraq, Syria and Yemen from flying to Minsk. Iraq suspended direct flights earlier and said it’s organizing a flight to return citizens trapped at the border.

But the Post reports that many migrants remain undeterred.

“We are being used as pawns,” a 27-year-old migrant said. “But as a Syrian, I see it as an opportunity. The situation there is so bad.”