Belarus No Longer Will Readmit Migrants Who Cross Into EU as Retaliation for Sanctions

Belarus' parliament voted on Tuesday to refuse migrants reentering the country from the European Union, suspending an agreement with the EU in retaliation for sanctions, the Associated Press reported.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said his nation cannot afford the costs of inviting the migrants back into their country, and would use the money to counteract sanctions levied by the EU.

Belarus Interior Minister Ivan Kubrakov said the agreement's suspension is a "temporary measure" and could be resolved "after relations normalize."

According to Pavel Latushko, a leading figure of the Belarusian opposition, the action is rooted in revenge and will do more harm than good.

"Lukashenko is taking revenge against the EU by unleashing a hybrid war and using refugees to openly blackmail European authorities," he said. "Migration is part of a broad campaign of confrontation with the West pursued by the Belarusian authorities."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Belarus refuses to readmit migrants from EU
Belarus' parliament voted against readmitting migrants from the European Union. Above, migrants after crossing the border from Belarus into Usnarz Gorny, Poland, on September 1, 2021. Czarek Sokolowski/Associated Press

Belarus' EU neighbors Poland and Lithuania have been struggling to cope with an unusually high number of migrants, most from Iraq and Afghanistan, arriving at their borders with Belarus in recent months.

They have accused Lukashenko of encouraging the flow of migrants and using them as a weapon in what they described as a "hybrid war" against the 27-nation bloc in retaliation for its sanctions on Belarus.

The EU sanctions were put into place after the Belarus government cracked down harshly on anti-government protesters in 2020 and were tightened this year after Belarus forcibly diverted a passenger plane to arrest an opposition journalist.

Poland has responded to the large-scale migration by deploying troops, refusing to let migrants apply for asylum and pushing some back across the border into Belarus. The tough approach has drawn criticism from human rights groups. Poland's influential Catholic Church appealed Monday for humanitarian assistance for the migrants.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko
Belarus' parliament voted to reject migrants from readmittance after crossing its borders into the European Union. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko at a meeting with officials in Minsk on October 1, 2021. Sergei Shelega/Associated Press