The tragedy of migrants lured to Belarus and stuck on the border may be shifting. Some migrants have been able to return to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The Kurdistan Regional Government, an autonomous government, organized a rescue flight. According to the government’s website “a rescue flight from Belarus is set to land at Erbil after 7:00 pm today, returning more than 400 migrants who had been stranded on the Belarus-Poland border.”
The report said that 20,000 people are in Belarus and became stuck trying to cross into Poland and move to Europe. Some of them are Kurds and also Yazidi survivors of genocide. “This prompted the KRG’s Department of Foreign Relations and the Iraqi foreign ministry to send a plane to repatriate those wanting to return.” Around 460 people registered to come back and 430 have returned.
“Some have passport issues, having either lost them or their visas have expired. The Iraqi foreign ministry and the Department of Foreign Relations of the KRG sent a team from Baghdad’s embassy in Russia to tackle this. A ministry of health team will be at the airport to give returnees free coronavirus tests and also medical aid to those suffering illness from the cold,” the KRG said.
Some Kurds have died trying to cross from Belarus to Europe. Last week two bodies of Kurdish migrants were returned home. “Gaylan Dler, 25, and Kurdo Khalid, 34, died in Belarus where thousands of Kurds from Iraq are caught in a standoff between Minsk and the European Union,” Rudaw reported.
“Gaylan Dler had diabetes. He left Erbil with his two brothers, sister, and her family on October 12, traveling through Dubai to reach Minsk. On the border, they were pushed back and forth across the frontier by Belarusian and Polish forces, his sister Iman Dler told Rudaw from a center in Poland where she was staying after breaking her leg,” the report said.
Gaylan died on October 29, the report said. Other reports have said that Yazidis who survived genocide but have been stuck in IDP camps for six years have tried to get to Belarus and become stranded. Many fly through Damascus or other cities, paying thousands of dollars, and then try to make their way from Minsk to the border. European states accused Belarus of forcing the migrants to attack the border, accusing them of “hybrid war.” However, the migrants are victims and many have suffered war and poverty.
Russian media now says the migrants are moving to a new border. “Illegal migrants from Asia and Africa who are attempting to get into Lithuania from neighboring Belarus have changed their tactics trying to cross the border in small groups, Commander of the State Border Guard Service, General Rustamas Liubajevas told the LRT national radio station on Monday,” Tass news reported. "A change in strategy was noted with agents from Belarusian security forces pushing small - [numbering] three-five people - groups of migrants to the border that are more difficult to detect and turn back to Belarus," the report said.
“Over the past 24 hours, Lithuanian border guards, and the military assisting them, have prevented 70 migrants from illicitly crossing the border. Two individuals were allowed into Lithuania for humanitarian purposes. They were Belarusian citizens who asked for political asylum. Lately, there were no Belarusians among the migrants,” Tass media reported.
The shift in strategy comes after Poland acted quickly to send forces to the border. The UK even sent soldiers. Estonian troops also came. This is a big mission for Europe and comes amid Ukraine tensions with Russia. It is unclear what will transpire on the Lithuanian border. For Kurds, the tragedy is compounded by the suffering Kurds face in Syria after they were forced out of Afrin by Turkish-backed extremists.