Belarus must be held accountable for human trafficking: Baltic states

Belarus is forcing migrants to cross its borders with the European Union, and the government of President Alexander Lukashenko must be held accountable for human trafficking, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia said on Monday.

“We … condemn the actions taken by the Lukashenko regime that instrumentalize migrants for political purposes,” the presidents of the three Baltic states said in a joint statement after meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda via a link. Of video.

The European Union has accused Lukashenko of orchestrating an influx of immigrants to EU member Poland, Lithuania and Latvia to pressure the EU to back down on sanctions imposed on his government. Belarus has repeatedly denied the accusation.

“Thousands of people who flew to Belarus from countries in the Middle East and Africa are being directed, in caravans, to storm the border of the European Union,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said at a press conference.

He said that “video recordings, photographs and other evidence” demonstrated the involvement of Belarusian officials, as well as its close ally, Russia, in the turmoil of the crisis.

Polish soldiers and police officers observe migrants at the Polish-Belarusian border near Kuznica, Poland, in this photo released by the Territorial Defense Forces on November 12, 2021 (credit: IREK DOROZANSKI / DWOT / BROCHURE VIA REUTERS)

“This is illustrated by the evident increase in the activity of immigrants traveling through Moscow (to the EU border), making up for the loss of flights from Iraq to Minsk,” Nauseda said.

Estonian President Alar Karis, Latvian President Egils Levits, and Nauseda called on the European Commission to introduce, “without delay”, changes in EU laws to narrow the possibilities of asylum.

They also said that the EU should pay for the construction of barriers on the bloc’s external border, such as the one it has with Belarus.

European Union foreign ministers approved changes to the bloc’s sanctions framework on Monday, paving the way for a new round of sanctions against Belarus.

Lithuania and Latvia would join Poland if it decided to request an emergency consultation from NATO under article 4 of the defense alliance governance treaty, the presidents of the two countries said.

According to article 4, any ally may request consultations whenever, in the opinion of one of them, their territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened.

“The integration of Belarus into the Russian military system is now a done deal. NATO needs to change its military strategy and plans accordingly,” Nauseda said.

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