Poland confirms Belarusian border camp has now been cleared as migrants taken to shelter

Authorities in Belarus say the migrant camp on the border with Poland has been cleared, and its residents have now been moved to a nearby shelter. Meanwhile, hundreds were sent back to Iraq after giving up any hope of reaching Europe.

“As of November 18, all refugees from the temporary camp on the Belarusian-Polish border near the Prozky crossing point have been transferred to a logistics center,” the Belarusian border guards said on Telegram. Pictures of the deserted camp have been posted.

Polish border guards confirmed the evacuation of the camp, which comes after a week of heightened tensions between Belarus and the European Union.

Meanwhile, more than 400 Iraqis were Fly home on Thursday On board the first flight home since the crisis began.

The latest moves are seen as a sign that the disputed country’s leader, Alexander Lukashenko, accused of masterminding the crisis, is now eager to defuse it.

More than a thousand people had already taken shelter on Tuesday in a huge barn near the border, but Minsk said about 800 others were still spending the night outside in sub-zero temperatures in tents or near a campfire.

According to the Belarusian border guards, they were finally relocated due to “deteriorating weather” and were able to get “hot meals, warm clothes and basic necessities” in the barn.

The child becomes the latest victim

In the latest in a series of human tragedies unfolding in the cold, humid forest, a Polish NGO said Thursday it had helped a Syrian couple who said they had lost their one-year-old son.

“It is heartbreaking to see a child die in the cold on the doorstep of the European Union,” chirp European Parliament President David Sassoli. “The exploitation of migrants and asylum seekers must stop, and the brutality must stop.”

The makeshift camp has occupied up to 2,000 people in recent days. It was installed in a wooded area not far from the border point of Prozki where, on Tuesday, hundreds of migrants faced water cannon fire and tear gas from Polish forces.

The Belarusian presidency said on Thursday afternoon that between 200 and 500 other people are still scattered elsewhere along the borders with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. She added that about 5,000 others are in the country.

On Thursday evening, 431 migrants were returned to Iraq, most of them to Erbil, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, where most of them come from, and the rest to Baghdad.

Several children and women were on the return flight, the first since the start of the migration crisis, which Baghdad said was organized “on a voluntary basis”.

Minsk claimed that during discussions between Alexander Lukashenko and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor said she wanted to see a “humanitarian corridor” for the evacuation of some 2,000 migrants from the camp to Germany, which Berlin vehemently denied.

EU accuses Belarus of ‘state-sponsored smuggling’

The European Union accuses the regime in Belarus, an ally of Russia and subject to European sanctions for suppressing its opposition, of luring migrants into believing they can enter Europe through its territory to destabilize the bloc.

European Union Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson on Thursday accused Belarus of being involved in a “state-sponsored act of migrant smuggling” at its border with Poland.

Speaking via video link to a gathering in Sarajevo of European Union and Western Balkan security officials to discuss migration management in the region, Johansson said new sanctions on Belarus and a halt to flights to Minsk were “the EU’s most effective tools in this conflict.”

Slovenian Interior Minister Alice Hoges, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the Council of Europe, said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was waging a “mixed war” on the EU’s borders.

“Personally, I am sure that by the spring we will stop this in one form or another, but not only through our political efforts, but also because Poland will really close the eastern borders of the European Union by technical means, including fences,” Hughes said.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Thursday accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of seeking to “weaponize immigration,” something Blinken called “highly unreasonable.”

“It is a huge injustice to these people who are falling victim to making them pawns in the efforts of the Belarusian regime to disrupt it,” he said at a press conference during a trip to Abuja, Nigeria.

“We have powers to add as necessary to the sanctions,” he warned.

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