The makeshift camps for illegal immigrants set up in front of the Polish border were deserted yesterday. Most of the around 7,000 foreigners whose presence Belarus recognizes in its territory have been transferred to minimally equipped industrial buildings for their provisional reception. This solution does not mean the end of the conflict, but it will save lives and it is undoubtedly an important step on the part of the Minsk Government, which comes after two telephone conversations between the acting German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, one on Sunday, November 14 and the second two days later. Belarus said Thursday that it had reached an agreement in principle to repatriate
5,000 refugees to their countries and 400 have already left back to Iraq; and to pass the remaining 2,000 to European territory, presumably Germany, but the German Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer, reiterated yesterday his refusal, which he had previously communicated to the Polish Government.
“It is false news,” the minister insisted, “it is clear that humanitarian aid must be provided to people trapped at the border, since they are the instrument of a perfidious strategy, but what we will not do is give in to Belarusian pressure and admit them. on European territory ». Without this counterpart, however, the step backward by the Belarusian government is not explained, which until just a few days ago gave orders to its border guard not to allow immigrants to go back and even to push them towards the Polish border. Merkel’s spokesperson, Steffen Seigert, He was limited yesterday to deny that the telephone conversations suppose a legitimation of Lukashenko, and avoided to comment on its content. It is evident that, in the face of the less than enthusiastic reaction from Brussels, Merkel is looking for a way out in another direction, in the midst of an unprecedented diplomatic activity, in the case of a acting chancellor.
Merkel spoke yesterday with both the high commissioner of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, and the director general of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), seeking “a common effort to alleviate the crisis on the border between Poland and Belarus ”, according to Seibert. He also received the sgeneral secretary of la otan, Jens Stoltenberg, who demanded “transparency” in the talks and guaranteed the “full solidarity” of the Alliance with Poland, which is even considering invoking Article 4. Asked about it, Stoltenberg acknowledged that “there are ongoing talks” and resolved that “the first thing is solve the situation on the border “, although he guaranteed that” we are vigilant and ready to act in support of our allies on the border with Belarus. ” Merkel, for her part, in front of NATO’s highest representative, justified her contacts in this regard with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “We have always defended that it is better to speak than not to do so, despite the cooling that has occurred,” he defended his initiative.
The point is that Putin deduces from these contacts that there is a European solution and he has stated this, after communicating with Lukashenko and referring to “the importance of establishing cooperation between Minsk and the European Union to solve the problem”, without anyone in Brussels being able to specify what specific cooperation he is talking about.
The problem, the sanctions
“It is very important that direct contacts between Lukashenko and EU representatives continue,” said Kremlim spokesman Dmitri Peskov, although in Minsk hopes that such contacts will take place as the hours go by. Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makéi acknowledged yesterday that “many in the EU are not at all interested in seeking a constructive solution to the common threats and challenges for the entire region” and accused Brussels of “not wanting to get to the bottom of the problem.” From the European Commission, spokesman Eric Mamer made it clear yesterday that “we will hold technical talks with the UN agencies and the IOM, to facilitate the repatriation of people, but there is no negotiation with the Lukashenko regime nor will we discuss the issue with Minsk of the sanctions due to the migratory crisis ”.
“The bottom line is the sanctions,” he says. Jakob Wöllenstein, Director of the Exterior of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation for Belarus, who assures that “Lukashenko uses immigrants as a weapon of pressure.” It also points out that the Minsk regime benefits from human trafficking and speaks of up to $ 14,000 in tolls that the country pocketed for each of them that passes through its territory. Political scientist Kelly Greenhill, author of the book “Weapons of Mass Migration”, agrees that “it is a case of a book and its most direct precedent was set by Turkey in 2016, when it threatened to let Syrian emigrants pass to the EU if not he was receiving substantial financial aid. Belarus took note and is now trying to make the same move.
Andreas Pott, Deputy Director of the Institute for Migration and Intercultural Studies at the University of Osnabrück, removes drama and points out that the situation is not comparable. “They are emigrants who travel by plane and pay a lot of money for transport, and they are also not in numbers comparable to those of 2015, which came in the hundreds of thousands, that is why the capacity of Belarus to put pressure on Germany or the EU is this time much more limited. ‘