‘We must be firm against Lukashenka’: European Commissioner faults regime for state-sponsored migrant smuggling

On October 5, Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, delivered a speech at the EP Plenary on the situation in Belarus after one year of protests and their violent repression.

The EU remains united in face of the brutal repression and the continuing provocations by the Lukashenko regime and in support of the Belarussian people, she stressed.

“One year after the fraudulent elections, the situation in Belarus remains dire. The Lukashenka regime continues its systematic effort to silence all remaining independent voices in the country: independent press, human rights defenders and civil society at large. Prominent representatives of the opposition to Lukashenko have been condemned to long prison sentences in political trials conducted behind closed doors. There are now more than 700 political prisoners in the country, a number that continues to increase. The oppression and persecution of the Belarusian people is utterly unacceptable,” the statement reads.

Responding to the regime, the bloc, among other things, provided a package of emergency assistance to the victims of repression and state violence and to independent media; it is working for justice for victims and accountability for perpetrators; it has published a plan for a 3 bn economic and investment package the top EU politician noted.

Migrants on borders of EU: How Lukashenka taking revenge for Western sanctions

In her speech, Ylva Johansson also raised the issue of current migration crisis; according to her, there have beeny more than 6,000 irregular arrivals coming across the Belarus – EU border, compared to barely 150 last year. The politician called the steps taken by the Belarusian authorities ‘state-run instrumentalisation of migrants’ and ‘Lukashenka’s blatant disregard of international norms’.

“The regime is using human beings in an unprecedented way, to put pressure on the European Union. And making a lot of money as well. People come in trips organised by organised by state tourist company Centrkurort. Stay in state-approved hotels. Pay deposits of many thousands of dollars, which they never get back. They lure people to Minsk. Who are then transported towards the border. In unmarked minivans. By men in unmarked uniforms. Lukashenka’s desperation is evidence that sanctions are hurting,” Ylva Johansson said.

In direct response to these unprecedented actions, the action plan against migrant smuggling the Commission presented last week calls this new and serious development by its name: ‘state sponsored migrant smuggling’, she pointed out.

Foreign Policy: Russia, Belarus using migrants as weapon against EU

The official urged the EU to ‘be firm against Lukashenka’ and continue showing solidarity with the member states which are at the forefront in this crisis.

“Last week I visited Poland. Where I discussed the provocations at the border with Interior Minister Kaminski. And the recent tragic deaths at the borders I learnt a lot about the situation. And my main message is and was we must protect our shared border with shared EU resources based on shared values,” Ylva Johansson told MEPs,

When concluding, the speaker highlighted that countering disinformation from the Lukashenka regime ‘remains key’ and added that the European Union should keep strengthening communication and awareness raising efforts in parallel to their support to the Belarusian democratic forces.

Poland: Belarus services fit out illegal migrants with camo uniforms, provocations are feasible

Belsat.eu, following ec.europa.eu