Iraq sends planes to Belarus to collect more migrants

AFP , Thursday 25 Nov 2021

Two Iraqi planes took off Thursday night for Belarus in order to repatriate Iraqis stuck on the ex-Soviet state's border with Poland, the transport ministry said.

Migrants rest inside a logistics center at the checkpoint  Kuznitsa
Migrants rest inside a logistics center at the checkpoint Kuznitsa at the Belarus-Poland border near Grodno, Belarus, Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021.AP

Hundreds of Iraqis, most of them Kurds, returned home last week on a voluntary repatriation flight from Belarus, where thousands of migrants have camped on the border for weeks hoping to enter the European Union.

A first plane carrying 185 people was due to land in Arbil, capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq, after midnight, Lawk Ghafuri, head of foreign media relations in Kurdistan, told AFP.

On November 18, a total of 431 Iraqis were flown back home from Belarus, many returning with mixed feelings.

Most said they had spent their savings, sold valuables and even took loans to escape economic hardship in Iraq and start a new life in the EU, but they never made it across the border.

The West accuses Belarus of bringing in would-be migrants_mostly from the Middle East_under the false pretence that they will be to cross into EU members Poland and Lithuania.

Belarus has denied the claim and criticised the EU for not taking in the migrants.

Aid groups say at least 11 migrants have died on both sides of the border since the crisis began in the summer, and have criticised the Polish government over its policy of pushing migrants back.

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