Sam Ashworth-Hayes Sam Ashworth-Hayes

Lukashenko and Putin are exploiting Europe’s migration muddle

Migrants in a camp on the Belarusian-Polish border (Getty images)

At the border of Belarus and Poland, camps of migrants wait for a chance to cross the border into the EU. Groups attempt to break down the razor wire fences standing in their way, Some 15,000 Polish soldiers stand ready to stop them. Belarusian soldiers urge them on and offer assistance. The Belarusian state shuttles more migrants towards the border by the day, hands out wire-cutters, and prevents them from turning back. Some 30,000 migrants have attempted to cross into Poland since August. That number is swelling by the day, with Belarus now running dozens of flights every week ferrying further desperate people to Europe’s eastern border.

It is customary for cartoonish villains to give a lengthy and discursive speech where they lay out in detail exactly what they plan to do so that the hero can take notes and foil them. Minsk did its part. Lukashenko told the world in May that Belarus would flood the EU with ‘migrants and drugs’, and then he did it. A flow of migrants through Belarus to Lithuania that had previously been a trickle – 46 in 2019 – became a flood, with thousands of migrants, many without papers, crossing the border.

As the migrants continued to arrive, he told us precisely what would happen next: 

With Europe’s enemies willing to use its welcoming nature to undermine it, a revision of refugee policy is badly needed

‘We will not hold anyone back. We are not their final destination after all. They are headed to enlightened, warm, cozy Europe.’ 

Enlightened, warm, cozy Europe, for its part, seemed happy enough to leave its Eastern border to face the brunt at first, just as it did the Mediterranean in 2015. Blame for the current situation lies with Lukashenko and his puppet-master Putin, but a share of responsibility lies also with the West.

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