Seehofer wants to stop illegal migration from Belarus at EU border

style="float: right; margin-bottom: 10px; font-weight: 600;"Wed 20th Oct, 2021

In view of the rising number of migrants crossing illegally into Germany from Belarus via Poland, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer wants to take countermeasures. Today, the cabinet will deal with the issue. According to a media report, the CSU politician wants to speak out in favor of erecting "physical barriers" at the EU's external border. This was reported by the news portal "The Pioneer" on Wednesday, citing a report from the Interior Ministry.

According to the report, some 15,000 migrants have gathered in the border area between Belarus and Poland. Most were seeking "permanent residence" in Germany, the news portal quoted from the report."Meanwhile, the increasing migratory pressure on the EU's eastern external border is also having a direct impact on Germany," the report continues. "The numbers are steadily increasing," the news portal cites. It adds, "The regime in Belarus is promoting smuggling to the EU via Belarus worldwide." The list of states whose nationals can enter Belarus visa-free has "continuously expanded," most recently to include Iran, Pakistan, South Africa, Egypt, and Jordan, among others, it said. "We are seeing increased flights from Dubai, Istanbul, and Beirut."

Seehofer also wants penalties for private companies

In recent months, thousands of people, mostly from the Middle East and Africa, have tried to cross from Belarus into Poland, Latvia, or Lithuania. Warsaw has therefore stationed thousands of soldiers at the border, erected a barbed-wire fence, and imposed a state of emergency that prohibits journalists and aid organizations from accessing the border. The Polish parliament also voted to legalize so-called pushbacks.

The EU accuses Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko of deliberately smuggling refugees from the Middle East across the borders of Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia into the EU in retaliation for European sanctions targeting human rights abuses. According to data released by the German Interior Ministry on Monday, some 4,500 people have crossed the Polish-German border without entry permits since August.

Seehofer also wants to counter with sanctions against private companies. "EU-wide drastic sanctions must be imposed as soon as possible against all airlines and other companies whose actions support the instrumentalization of irregular migration by the regime in Belarus," the report says.

The aid organization Pro Asyl criticizes the situation of refugees at the Polish-Belarusian border. "At the EU's external border in Poland, the Refugee Convention is effectively suspended," Pro Asyl Europe head Karl Kopp told the Düsseldorf-based "Rheinische Post." He urged the EU to respect human rights. "Dictators win when states under the rule of law themselves break the refugee convention."

Human rights activists criticize the treatment of migrants

The Catholic social organization Caritas also believes Poland has a duty to uphold human rights. "We must give people who come to the EU's external border the chance to be able to make their request for protection, accommodate them in a humane way and give them a fair trial," Caritas migration expert Andrea Schlenker told the Cologne portal "": "But of course we can and must also offer civil society support here and many aid organizations would be ready to really provide and help here."

Schlenker pointed to clear EU rules on how Poland should behave. "In the same way, one should try to dissuade Belarus from this undignified behavior by appropriate sanctions and pressure," she stressed. An "inhumane instrumentalization of people" has been proven many times, she said.Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry tweeted Tuesday evening that Seehofer had offered support to his Polish counterpart, Mariusz Kaminski. "Germany is increasingly affected by illegal migration via Belarus. I offer to significantly increase the share of the federal police," Seehofer said. "To effectively prevent illegal onward travel to Germany, joint patrols should be deployed on Polish territory." In addition, the minister also held out the prospect of logistical assistance, for example with accommodation and supplies.

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