Menz Magazine

Belarus’ Strategy to Create an EU Migrant Crisis Backfires as Migrants Decide Belarus is Better than Nothing

Credit: (Leonid Shcheglov/BelTA via AP, File)

If Belarusian Leader Alexander Lukashenko intended to take revenge against the European Union by flooding it with asylum-seekers he diverted to the Polish border, his strategy looks to have backfired. The Washington Post reports that ”Lukashenko’s regime is now struggling over what to do with thousands of stranded people he lured from the Middle East and beyond.”

Belarus began bussing migrants on Wednesday gathered in the cold at the Polish border to warehouses promising food, warmth, and shelter. But “having helped funnel desperate migrants to Europe’s doorstep,” The New York Times reports, “Lukashenko suddenly has to deal with people like Bale Nisu, a 21-year-old Kurd from Iraq who has taken a liking to Belarus, and would like to settle here.”

Nisu, like the other migrants, prefers to go to Germany or elsewhere in the EU rather than Belarus. The Times reports that “He lamented that he had spent more than $4,000 and days freezing in the forest only to end up in a poor, highly repressive former Soviet republic with little to offer in the way of jobs and other opportunities.” But Nisu said, “Belarus looked far more enticing than returning to Iraq, or more encounters with Polish soldiers and border guards. He said he wanted to apply for asylum in Belarus,” which he called “a very, very good country.”

Dictators don’t usually have to worry about having their country praised,” the Times notes, but Lukashenko “could face a serious headache if migrants start demanding political asylum in Belarus. It is a predominantly Orthodox Christian nation with scant experience of taking in foreign immigrants and, like Poland and other East European countries, has been generally hostile to non-Christian settlers from outside Europe.”

According to the Post, many of the migrants fear that Lukashenko will deport them back to Iraq, Syria, and other places of origin. But “Belarus has spent weeks denouncing Poland for violating international law by refusing to consider asylum requests and pushing back migrants … who make it across the border,” the Times reports.

Lukashenko was certainly looking for a concession from the EU, influenced by Europe’s decision to pay Turkey generously to stop a flow of Syrian asylum-seekers during a disruptive migrant surge in 2015 “independent Belarus analyst Dmitry Bolkunets tells the Post. “But Lukashenko miscalculated and now there’s no way out.”

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