Baghdad: Baghdad has returned nearly 4,000 of its citizens to the Belarusian border with members of the European Union Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia in recent weeks, the Iraqi foreign minister said on Sunday.
As of November 18, the Iraqi government has arranged for “10 flights from Baghdad to Belarus” to repatriate its citizens, Fuad Hussein told a news conference in Baghdad with his Lithuanian counterpart. “We have been able to repatriate about 4,000 Iraqi people trapped in the border between Belarus and Poland, Lithuania and Latvia,” he said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed al-Sahaf later told AFP that “3,817 Iraqi migrants have been repatriated from Belarus and 112 from Lithuania”. Flights often land in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, where most prospective migrants come from, before continuing to Baghdad.
Sahaf said some Iraqi people are still trapped in Belarus, but “difficult weather and complex environment do not allow rescuers to determine their numbers”. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabriel Gabriel Landsbergis, who also met with Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi, said he wanted to “bring new ideas for cooperation” with Iraq.
Since last summer, thousands of migrants, many from the Middle East and Iraq in particular, have camped on the Belarus-EU border, often in dire straits, trying to break into the bloc. Western nations have blamed Belarus for attracting migrants across the border in retaliation for sanctions against President Alexander Lukashenko’s government. Belarus has denied the allegations and criticized the EU for not taking immigrants.