Lukashenko provides food and clothing to migrants staying at the border

Lukashenko provides food and clothing to migrants staying at the border

Kiev Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko promised Friday to provide food and warm clothes to migrants who choose to stay at the border between the former Soviet state and Poland and will not return home.

Lukashenko made the pledge during a visit to a facility housing migrants at the border.

“My job is to help you people who are in trouble,” Lukashenko said, addressing thousands of migrants during a visit to a migrant housing facility in the Brozge depot. “We Belarusians, including myself, will do everything as you wish, even if it is bad for Poles, Latvians and someone else.”

“We will work with you to realize your dream,” Lukashenko added.

Lukashenko’s visit comes after weeks of tensions at the border, where hundreds of people remain stranded. Since November 8, a large group of people, mostly from the Middle East, has been stranded in Belarus at a border crossing with Poland, with troops from the two countries trapped facing each other. Most are fleeing conflict or feeling hopeless at home, aiming to reach Germany or other Western European countries.

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Lukashenko again called on Germany to accept immigrants.

German government spokesman Stephen Seibert on Friday strongly denied Lukashenko’s allegations that Germany has agreed to take in 2,000 migrants currently in Belarus.

“It is not true that Germany agrees to that,” he told reporters in Berlin.

Videos and photos taken by local media show the authoritarian leader of Belarus surveying conditions in crowded neighborhoods for migrants. Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that the crowds of migrants applauded Lukashenko upon his arrival.

Except for about 2,000 people at the border facility, Lukashenko said, there are currently another 2,000 to 3,000 migrants left in Belarus. He promised the migrants that the Belarusian authorities would help them return to their countries of origin – but only if they wanted to.

“In no way will we detain you, handcuff you, load you on planes, and send you home if you don’t want to,” Lukashenko said.

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Lukashenko said about 200 migrants still manage to enter the European Union illegally every day.

More than 170 people returned to the Kurdish-administered region of northern Iraq on Friday, with another return flight expected later in the day. Last week, 430 Iraqis returned home after a failed attempt to reach the European Union.

The West has accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of luring thousands of migrants to Belarus by promising to help reach Western Europe, using them as pawns to destabilize the 27-nation European Union in retaliation for sanctions it imposed on his authoritarian government. Belarus denies engineering the crisis.

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