Lebanon curbs travel to Belarus

Belarus accused by EU of flying in migrants from the Middle East

A Lebanese Middle East Airlines (MEA) plane is parked at the tarmac of Beirut international airport, in Beirut, Lebanon. Reuters

Lebanon instructed airlines to limit passengers travelling to Belarus to only those who have visas, residency permits or Belarusian citizenship, according to a statement by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation seen by Reuters on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Belarusian state airline Belavia has stopped allowing citizens from Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Syria and Yemen to board flights to Minsk from Tashkent in Uzbekistan, the Belta news agency reported on Thursday.

Foreign ministers from the G7 group of wealthy economies condemned Belarus for orchestrating irregular migration across its borders and called for an immediate halt to what it called an “aggressive and exploitative campaign".

“These callous acts are putting people’s lives at risk,” said the statement, issued by G7 chair Britain.

“We call on the regime to cease immediately its aggressive and exploitative campaign in order to prevent further deaths and suffering.”

The European Union accuses Belarus of flying in migrants, mainly from the Middle East, and pushing them to illegally cross the border with Poland in a hybrid attack at the bloc. Belarus denies fuelling the crisis.

The Polish army on Thursday said it had detained a group of about 100 migrants who crossed the Belarus border during the night, accusing Belarusian forces of leading the operation.

The incident came as Belarus, which has said it wants to defuse the crisis, prepared for the first migrant repatriation flight to Iraq that is expected to carry more than 400 people.

Thousands of migrants, mainly from the Middle East, are camped out or staying close to the Poland-Belarus border in dire conditions, hoping to cross into the European Union.

Aid groups say at least 11 migrants have died since the crisis began in the summer. They are calling for a de-escalation and a humanitarian response to the problem.

Updated: November 18th 2021, 11:56 AM