Belarus weaponising EU border just beginning of crisis: ‘Will become norm’

Belarus-Poland: Migrants detained attempting border crossing

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President Alexander Lukashenko says Belarus will impose retaliatory restrictions on airlines from the EU and the UK. It comes after the bloc and several other western nations, including the UK, US and Canada, introduced new sanctions on the country. These were introduced as the country used its border with Poland — an EU member state — as a way for desperate migrants to enter the bloc.

Many of these are currently living in inhumane, freezing conditions in dense forest between Belarus and Poland.

Little has been done to help the people so far, with an investigation by the Polish authorities prompted only after the death of an Iraqi Kurdish woman, who suffered hypothermia and a miscarriage after crossing the border.

In the past decade, migrant crises have become commonplace in Europe.

Thousands of people fleeing war, persecution, or simply hoping for a better life, have travelled from places like the Middle East and North Africa into Europe.

The events witnessed at the Belarus-Poland border this year have been different: a leader outside the EU actively using their border to destabilise an entire bloc.

Professor Matthew Longo, a political scientist at Leiden University in the Netherlands, suggested that this may now “become the norm”.

This is because the EU has overly “politicised” its border, creating an overtly exclusive space.

He told Express.co.uk: “I think in general, once the border became so easy to blackmail, once the EU became this place that puts so much political cache on stopping people from getting in, of course it becomes a space that people on the outside will look to exploit and be provocative.

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“My sense is that insofar as this is all just a Lukashenko power play, I don’t see why this wouldn’t become the norm.”

He went on to draw parallels with groups using borders as a way to get bigger powers to make concessions, like the cartels in Mexico.

Prof Longo continued: “But cartels are basically governments: a cartel in Sinaloa runs Sinaloa, it runs the resources, it runs the distribution of the wealth, and has all the arms and the police and state bought out.

“The idea that you could use or levy the power of the border for concessions against big powers is not remotely new, it’s just that in the European context, we don’t really know it yet.”

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“It wouldn’t surprise anyone looking ten years down the road if you saw the cartelisation of all these European buffer states.

“All these states realise that the EU is extortable, and so the EU is in a tough place, because once it’s politicised its borders as much as it has, it finds itself in a particularly bad place.

In an interview with the BBC last month, Mr Lukashenko said it was “absolutely possible” that his forces helped migrants cross into Poland.

He denied, however, that they were ever invited in the first place.

He said: “I told them [the EU] I’m not going to detain migrants on the border, hold them at the border, and if they keep coming from now on I still won’t stop them, because they’re not coming to my country, they’re going to yours.

“But I didn’t invite them here.

“And to be honest, I don’t want them to go through Belarus.”

At the end of November, Mr Lukashenko made his first appearance at the border since the issue had exploded this summer.

He told hopeful asylum seekers that Belarus would not stop them from attempting to cross into the bloc.

Addressing a group of migrants, according to Al Jazeera, he said: “If you want to go westwards, we won’t detain you, choke you, beat you.

“It’s up to you. Go through. Go.

“We won’t in any circumstances detain you, tie your hands and load you on planes to send you home if you don’t want that.”

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