Iraq says almost 4,000 repatriated from Belarus borders

AFP , Sunday 16 Jan 2022

Baghdad has repatriated almost 4,000 of its citizens stuck on the Belarus borders with European Union members Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia in recent weeks, Iraq's foreign minister said Sunday.

Iraqi migrants
File Photo: Iraqi migrants who were flown home from the Belarusian capital Minsk, arrive at the airport in Arbil, the capital of Iraq s northern autonomous Kurdish region, on November 26, 2021. AFP

Since November 18, the Iraqi government has organized "10 flights from Baghdad to Belarus" to repatriate its citizens, Fuad Hussein told a press conference in Baghdad with his Lithuanian counterpart.

"We have been able to repatriate around 4,000 Iraqis who were stuck on the Belarus borders with Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia," he said.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein, right, and visiting Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, hold a news conference following their meeting, in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Jan 16, 2022. AP

Foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed al-Sahaf later told AFP that "3,817 Iraqi migrants have been repatriated from Belarus and 112 from Lithuania".

The flights have generally arrived in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, where many of the would-be migrants are from, before continuing to Baghdad.

Sahaf said some Iraqis were still stuck in Belarus, but that "the difficult weather and complex environment do not allow rescuers to determine their numbers".

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, who also met with Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi, said he wanted "to bring in new cooperation ideas" with Iraq.

A handout picture released by Iraq's Prime Minister's Media Office shows Premier Mustafa al-Kadhemi (R) during a meeting with Lithuania's foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, in Baghdad, on January 16, 2022, to discuss the issue of Iraqi refugees in Europe. AFP

Since last summer, thousands of migrants, many from the Middle East and Iraq in particular, had been camped on the Belarus-EU border, often in bitter conditions, trying to enter the bloc.

The West has accused Belarus of luring the migrants to the border as revenge for sanctions against President Alexander Lukashenko's regime.

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

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