Belarus is set to ease the migration policy towards foreigners banned from coming to the country as Russia seems to be the major contributor to the corresponding black-list. Amid Russia’s pushing for the two countries’ closer integration, Belarus is seeking to be more independent. But the presence of the unified list remains a challenging problem.
In accordance with the agreement signed in 2015, Belarus and Russia shall exchange information about ‘unwanted’ foreigners. Currently, 1,142,000 persons are the list of those banned from entering Belarus. Making a speech in the parliament, Deputy Interior Minister Ivan Padhurski said:
“The majority of the people on the list are included by Russia. More than 138,000 people were added by state bodies of Belarus, including the KGB (15,000), the State Border Committee (7,000). Another 5,000 are those who failed to pay fines.
On October 10, the parliament of Belarus decided to ease the policy towards the ‘blacklisted’ foreigners. According to the new rules, Belarus will de-list people who committed minor offenses. As for those who were fined but never paid off, they will get a chance to pay a fine when crossing the border or being in their home country. Since March, foreigners can also check their entry status on the webpage of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry.
The 2015 agreement aimed at preventing ‘unwanted’ foreigners from entering Belarus or Russia through the other country as no formalities beeded to cross the Russia-Belarus border. However, these blacklists of Belarus and Russia started to be heavily politicized. For example, two Norwegian politicians Line Nordhaug and Andre Erstad were denied entry to Belarus in 2014 although that their visit was not political. The Swedish human rights activist Martin Uggla and the Polish MEP Marek Migalski faced the same situation.
In 2015, the Belarusian-Russian list of foreigners banned from the entry included 300,000 Ukrainians. Many Ukrainians, including MPs, representatives of the government, activists, writers and musicians, were unwelcome in Belarus.
Belarusian MPs have decided to ease the entry rules, but the problem does not seem to vanish into the thin air. The Belarusian custom services are dependent on the Russian list of ‘unwanted’ foreigners. Only rarely does the Belarusian side let a foreigner blacklisted by Russia to come to Belarus.
Of course, all this undermines the international image of Belarus. The Russian authorities often brush off foreigners referring to the foreign agents law. Due to the common list of the ‘unwanted’, Belarus automatically takes the anti-Western position, although a law of such kind has never been adopted in our country. Such practice goes in conflict with the much-declared multi-vector politicy of the Belarusian government and once again proves that it is leaning to the East.
Alesia Rudnik, belsat.eu