The Stream

Why is Belarus using migrants as ‘weapons’ against the EU?

On Thursday, November 18, 2021 at 19:30 GMT:
Growing fears of a military confrontation with Belarus has the European Union on edge.

Officials say in retaliation for past sanctions, Minsk is attempting to destabilise the EU by funneling desperate Syrians and Iraqis to its borders. Belarus denies the allegations, but said it will no longer prevent refugees and migrants from trying to enter the union because it’s been deprived of the funds to do so.

Tens of thousands of soldiers now stand guard at the border crossings of Belarus and Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, with some 4,000 migrants caught in the middle. At least nine people have died.

For Europe, the crisis has reignited anti-immigrant sentiment among citizens still upset over the refugees who sought asylum en masse in 2015. It’s also a public relations nightmare, as footage of hungry men, women and children camped out on the border in the freezing cold make the rounds.

“This is as much a PR campaign as a breach-of-the-border campaign,” one analyst told the Wall Street Journal this month. “They know how divisive immigration is and how these images will create a toxic divide between citizens and different countries’ governments.”

Officials have demanded Belarus stop its “hybrid aggression” and are threatening further sanctions on the country. Complicating matters is Russia’s murky involvement.

In this episode of The Stream, we’ll discuss what’s going on at the border, the larger geopolitical picture and the looming humanitarian crisis as winter nears. Join the conversation.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:
Lydia Emmanouilidou, @LydiaEmman

Lukasz Jasina, @RzecznikMSZ
Spokesperson, Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Franak Viacorka, @franakviacorka 
Senior Advisor to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya
Belarusian Politician