The European Union has summoned the Belarusian envoy in Brussels and held talks with the Iraqi government after accusing Belarus of using illegal migrants, largely Iraqis, as a political weapon against EU sanctions imposed on Minsk.
A spokesperson said the European Commission summoned the envoy on Wednesday in protest over a refugee problem that Lithuania says Belarus has orchestrated on its border in retaliation for EU sanctions.
“These practices must stop and Belarus must respect its international commitments in combating irregular migration and human trafficking and migrant smuggling,” the Commission spokesperson told a news conference.
Lithuania has reported a surge in illegal border crossings from Belarus and accused Minsk of flying in migrants from abroad and dispatching them to cross the border.
Belarus in May decided to let migrants enter Lithuania in retaliation for EU sanctions meted out after Minsk forced a Ryanair flight to land on its soil and arrested a dissident blogger who was on board. President Alexander Lukashenko said Belarus would not become a “holding site” for migrants from Africa and the Middle East.