The authoritarian regime of Belarus’ dictator Aleksandr Lukashenka has for months orchestrated an irregular flow of migrants across its border into three nearby European Union nations: Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. Most of the migrants are fleeing Syria and Iraq in hopes of reaching western Europe.
“Groups of migrants are escorted by armed Belarusian security forces towards the borders of [European Union] member states with the aim to force illegal entries,” said European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. “This shows the cynicism of the Belarusian regime that, by stirring up the crisis at the EU’s external borders, is trying to distract attention from the situation in the country, where brutal repression and human rights violations are continuing and even worsening.”
Observers believe Lukashenka orchestrated the crisis to retaliate for sanctions the European Union imposed earlier this year. If the regime seeks sanctions relief, the steps are clear: end the ongoing crackdown, release unconditionally all political prisoners, hold accountable those responsible for abuse, and engage in a genuine, inclusive dialogue with the Belarusian opposition and civil society that will lead to new free and fair presidential elections under international observation.
In a recent phone call with Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, Secretary of State Antony Blinken “reaffirmed U.S. support for Poland in the face of the Lukashenka regime’s cynical exploitation of vulnerable migrants.”
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, “The actions by the Lukashenka regime threaten security, sow division, and aim to distract from Russia’s activities on the border with Ukraine.” He noted that Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Rau “strongly condemned the instrumentalization of vulnerable migrants and called on Lukashenka to address the root causes of sanctions imposed by the West – the denial of human rights and fundamental freedoms for the Belarusian people.”
Secretary Blinken also expressed his deep appreciation for Poland’s vocal support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The United States, Poland, and other Allies and partners are united in imposing significant costs on Moscow for its military aggression and malign activities in the region.