Turkey agrees to curb migrant flows to Belarus after EU request

Ankara has agreed to implement steps to stop migrants reaching the Polish border

Turkey agreed with the EU that it would monitor flights headed to Belarus to prevent them from being used to ferry migrants towards the Polish border, an EU official said Thursday.

Under the plan, Ankara will introduce measures including suspending the sale of one-way tickets to Minsk from Turkish territory.

Turkish Airlines agreed to restrict the sale of tickets from Istanbul to Minsk for citizens of countries from which large numbers of migrants have travelled, especially Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

Turkey will also prevent Turkish airliners’ Middle East networks from being used by Belavia, the Belarus national airline, to buy code-sharing flights to funnel passengers to Istanbul so they can catch Belavia flights to Minsk, the official said.

Migrant tension on the border between Belarus and Poland has worsened in recent days.

The EU has accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of directing migrant flows in retaliation for sanctions on his government over its crackdown on its opponents. Several thousand people are stuck on the frontier.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation, the Kremlin said.

In response to Mrs Merkel’s appeals to intercede with his ally Mr Lukashenko, Mr Putin repeated his stance that the EU should talk to Minsk directly.

The EU has worked in earlier flare-ups to prevent migrants from being flown to Belarus, particularly from Iraq.

This latest agreement with Turkey is aimed at cutting off the flow of migrants before they reach Belarus.

But the Turkish government has pointed out to EU officials that the problem is a tough one to tackle.

Many of the migrants have the proper paperwork to travel, which makes it difficult to prevent them from travelling or to punish airlines that allow them on board.

Updated: November 11th 2021, 10:50 PM