The Crisis In The Middle East

Crisis at the Belarus-Poland Border

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Global illegal migrants crisis

Thousands of migrants have flocked to Belarus’ border with Poland, hoping to get to Western Europe.

Background of the crisis

  • Belarus was rocked by months of massive protests following the August 2020 election that gave authoritarian President Lukashenko a sixth term in office.
  • The opposition and the West rejected the result.
  • Belarusian authorities responded to the demonstrations with a fierce crackdown that saw more than 35,000 people arrested and thousands beaten by police.
  • The European Union and the US reacted by imposing sanctions on Lukashenko’s government.

Immediate trigger

  • The restrictions were toughened after an incident when a passenger jet flying from Greece to Lithuania was diverted by Belarus to Minsk, where authorities arrested a dissident journalist.
  • The EU called it air piracy and barred Belarusian carriers from its skies.
  • It cut imports of the country’s top commodities, including petroleum products and potash, an ingredient in fertilizer.

Infused by migration

  • The EU sanctions deprived Lukashenko government of funds needed to contain flows of migrants.
  • Planes carrying migrants from Iraq, Syria and other countries began arriving in Belarus, and they soon headed for the borders with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

Rising tensions

  • Belarus is estimated to host between 5,000 and 20,000 migrants from the Middle East and Africa.
  • Many have run out of money and grown increasingly desperate as the winter approaches.
  • Belarusian residents are uneasy about their presence, raising pressure on the authorities to act.

Reservations by EU

  • The EU accused Lukashenko of using the migrants as pawns in a “hybrid attack” against the 27-nation bloc in retaliation for the sanctions.
  • Lukashenko denies the flow of migrants and said the EU is violating migrants’ rights by denying them safe passage.

What has been the response by EU countries?

  • Lithuania introduced a state of emergency to deal with small groups of migrants and strengthen its border with Belarus.
  • It set up tent camps to accommodate the growing number of migrants.
  • Polish authorities prevented hundreds of attempts by migrants to cross reporting many deaths.
  • The EU has made a strong show of solidarity with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

What is Russia’s role?

  • Belarus has received strong support from its main ally, Russia, which has helped rise Lukashenko’s government with loans and political support.
  • Russia considers the migrant flows resulting from the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Western-backed Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.
  • It challenged the EU to offer financial assistance to Belarus to deal with the influx.
  • At the same time, the Kremlin angrily rejected Poland’s claim that Russia bears responsibility for the crisis.

 

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