The European Commission has approved setting up a blacklist of all transport operators, whether by air, sea, river or land, who take part in the trafficking of migrants. They allocated €3.5 million to finance the voluntary repatriation of migrants from Belarus and €200 million for border management for Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, which will thus see their share of border management funding tripled to €6.4 billion.
With one important clarification, valid for every EU border: the funds can be used to equip the borders with the most modern technologies and for the purchase of the necessary means to control them, but not for the construction of walls or fences, as had been requested on Tuesday by the Visegrad bloc.
As the ongoing crisis with Belarus still continues, the European Commission has presented a new list of restrictive measures against the Minsk regime which is exploiting the desperation of refugees to blackmail Europe. The measures will now have to be approved by the EU Parliament and Council; they take aim at those who are profiting from the desire for a better future which animates those fleeing from conflict and misery in their countries of origin.
“The strategy employed by Belarus is based very clearly on the complicity of tour operators and their intermediaries. There are specialised travel agents offering all‑inclusive deals: visas, flights, hotels and, somewhat cynically, taxis and buses up to the border,” explained the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. This is a snapshot of what the Lukashenko regime has been doing so far, thus managing to amass thousands of men, women and children at the border with Poland.
The commissioners who worked on the new sanctions have set their sights on the airlines that have lent themselves to the transport of migrants. In recent days, Vice-President of the Commission Margaritis Schinas went to Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Uzbekistan and other countries and managed to obtain the suspension of flights to Minsk. Airlines that do not comply will be included in a ”watchlist” and may be subject to restrictions on operations on the EU market, the suspension of licenses or authorizations and also of refueling or maintenance, all the way up to the prohibition to transit the territory of the Union or to fly over it and make technical stops or stopovers at its airports. The first on the list is Belavia, the flag carrier of Belarus, which will no longer be able to lease its aircraft from EU companies.
These sanctions will be valid for one year and may be renewed, explained EU Transport Commissioner Adina Valean: “I hope that we will not need to use the regulation and the transport operators will themselves act to avoid being an accessory to the crime of trafficking and smuggling. But we’re prepared to take action if they don’t.”
In the coming days, a team from the European Union will travel to Belarus to “assess the needs [of migrants] and to take decisions of cooperation on the repatriation process,” announced EU foreign policy representative Josep Borrell. Furthermore, he stressed that “there is no deal and there are no negotiations with the Lukashenko regime, and there is nothing that can look like any kind of de facto recognition.”