EU announces sanctions on Minsk and asks not to let migrants freeze to death

The head of the European Union (EU) diplomacy warned that the borders of the community space “are not open unlimitedly” across Belarus, announcing new sanctions on Minsk to punish the migratory pressure of the Lukashenko regime.

“The borders of the European Union are not open in an unlimited way. Entry into the European Union is only possible through the legitimate crossing of the border, complying with European requirements and visa or asylum procedures and any information that claims otherwise is wrong and is pure misinformation“, said the High Representative for Foreign and Defense Policy of the EU, Josep Borrell.

Speaking to the press at the end of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, the head of EU diplomacy stressed that “the path to the European Union is not made through Belarus”, at a time when thousands of migrants settle on the Belarusian border with Poland to try to enter community space, an operation organized by the government of Minsk.

“We are looking for all possible solutions to prevent the regime from [Alexander] Lukashenko target us and stop using the population and we agreed to extend the scope of the sanctions regime to Belarus“, announced Josep Borrell.

The official said, without specifying, that this extension of sanctions will allow “to punish those responsible for the exploitation of vulnerable migrants and for facilitating the illegal crossing of the border to the EU”.

The head of European diplomacy also stressed the agreement on the adoption of a new package of sanctions, the fifth, “which will be finalized in the next few days”, he said.

Josep Borrell also said that the EU “can’t stop solving this problem” because “people are being deceived and converted into a kind of instruments with political objectives”.

In this regard, he revealed that he spoke on the phone with the Belarusian foreign minister to “not let migrants freeze to death” on the Belarusian border, and that he obtained assurances from Minsk that they would receive assistance.

“I had a phone call with the Belarusian foreign minister [Vladimir Makei] and I asked you for cooperation in order to make these people [migrantes] repatriated and to receive humanitarian assistance. They won’t be able to go to Europe, but they shouldn’t die frozen and in the water [travessias marítimas] and we have to do something to help them”, declared the EU High Representative for Foreign and Defense Policy Josep Borrell.

In a press conference at the end of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, the head of European diplomacy revealed that Makei had guaranteed that “they [Bielorrússia] would provide humanitarian support.”

Sanctions since October 2020

The EU Council changed, on Monday, its sanctions regime against Belarus, extending the listing criteria to the regime’s collaborators, to respond to the instrumentalization of migrants from Minsk.

The sanctions regime has been changed by extending the listing criteria on which specific designations can be based, so that the EU can now “target individuals and entities that organize or contribute to Lukashenko regime activities that facilitate the illegal crossing of external borders” of the block.

This decision follows the conclusions of the European Council of 21 and 22 October, in which EU leaders declared that they would not accept any attempt by third countries to instrumentalize migrants for political purposes, condemned all hybrid attacks on EU borders and stated that they would respond accordingly.

The sanctions on Belarus have been progressively expanded since October 2020, following the situation in the country, after having been adopted in response to the presidential elections in August of last year, which the EU considers to have been fraudulent and manipulated, not recognizing re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko.

A total of 166 people and 15 entities are now on the list of those targeted by the restrictive measures, including Lukashenko and his son Viktor, as well as senior figures from the regime condemned for repression and intimidation of its opponents and journalists.

Measures include a ban on travel to the EU and a freeze on assets in Europe.