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Turkey bans sale of air tickets to Belarus-bound migrants: officials

12.11.2021 13:15
Turkey has banned the sale of tickets for flights to Belarus to citizens of Iraq, Syria and Yemen, officials in Warsaw announced on Friday, amid a migrant crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border.  
Turkey bans sale of air tickets to Belarus-bound migrants: officials
Mertborak/Wikimedia Commons

Jakub Kumoch, a top foreign policy aide to Polish President Andrzej Duda, shared the news on Twitter.

He said the ban covered Turkish Airlines as well as Belarus's state-controlled airline Belavia.

It applies to all airports and is effective until further notice, Kumoch added

Tickets will only be sold to passengers with diplomatic passports, according to Kumoch.

He thanked "everyone involved in talks concerning this matter" on behalf of the Polish head of state.

Turkey said on Thursday it fully supported its NATO allies Poland, Lithuania and Latvia as they faced a migrant crisis on the Belarus border, Poland's PAP news agency reported.

Ankara insisted that Turkish Airlines was not part of the problem amid a growing realisation in the European Union that the influx of migrants by planes had to be restricted to defuse the border standoff, the Polish state news agency reported.

Meanwhile, EU officials were this week holding behind-the-scenes talks with non-European countries that have flight connections with Belarus, according to Polish news outlets.  

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, on Thursday warned that the bloc would blacklist airlines that fly to Belarus, ferrying migrants who then try to illegally cross into the EU, PAP reported. 

The migrant crisis has been mounting since the summer, with Poland, the Baltic states, the EU, NATO, the United States and other Western nations all accusing Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of orchestrating the standoff in revenge for sanctions imposed on his regime.

Minsk is deliberately luring vulnerable people, mostly Kurds from the Middle East, with the hope of safe passage to the West, and then leaving them at the EU's doorstep, mainly on Poland's eastern border, officials have said.

On Wednesday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the crisis was "designed to destabilise" the European bloc. He made the comment after talks in Warsaw with Charles Michel, who chairs the European Council of EU leaders.

Michel voiced solidarity with Poland, vowing that firm action would follow in the face of Belarus's "hybrid, brutal, violent and shameful attack."

Morawiecki told lawmakers on Tuesday that the migrant crisis was the most serious security risk facing Poland in decades.

Polish border guards, police and soldiers on Monday thwarted several bids by migrants to force their way into the country via Belarus, with fresh attempts taking place early on Wednesday and late on Thursday, government officials said, as the border crisis escalated.

EU, NATO, US, UN nations condemn Belarus

The United States and European members of the UN Security Council on Thursday condemned Belarus for the “orchestrated instrumentalization" of migrants as tensions rose along the Polish-Belarusian border.

Earlier this week, the United States voiced concern over "disturbing images and reports" from the Polish-Belarusian border, and condemned Belarus for "orchestrating" migrants flows to Europe.

NATO on Monday condemned the use of migrants by Belarus "as a hybrid tactic," with its Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg voicing solidarity with Poland amid the border standoff.

Meanwhile, European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen called for EU member states to approve new sanctions against Belarus, which she said was responsible for a "hybrid attack" on the Polish border using migrants.

The European Union has accused Belarus of encouraging thousands of migrants from the Middle East and Africa to cross into EU countries via Belarus, as a form of hybrid warfare in revenge for Western sanctions on Minsk over human rights abuses, the Reuters news agency reported.

Poland and the Baltic states have accused Belarus's strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko of organising a wave of illegal migrants seeking to enter the bloc as part of what officials have called a "hybrid war."

The EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, visited Poland in late September, agreeing with Warsaw’s arguments that “firm steps” were needed against Belarus, according to officials.

Poland's Morawiecki said last month that his country enjoyed full support within the European Union as it worked to defend itself against a migrant influx and a "hybrid war" being waged by Belarus.

In late September, Polish lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to extend a state of emergency in parts of two regions along the country's eastern border with Belarus by two months amid a growing migrant surge.

The state of emergency gives authorities broader powers to monitor and control the movement of people on the Polish-Belarusian border, which is also the eastern border of the European Union.


Source: PAP