Lukashenko made millions off his illegal migrant scheme

The migration crisis brought Belarus millions of dollars in revenue while also serving as a tool for hybrid warfare

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Czech News Agency, Kateřina Motyčková
Iraqi migrants arrive to the airport in Irbil, Iraq, early Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. 170 Iraqi nationals returned home Friday from Belarus in a repatriation process that came after tensions at Poland's eastern border, where thousands of migrants became stuck in a cold and soggy forest. (AP Photo/Hussein Ibrahim)

Migrants who managed to enter the European Union via Belarus have described how the Belarusian government first attracted them to the EU’s external border at substantial cost.

In one case, an entire family bought tickets to Germany that cost $40,000 (€35,500), writes the German Die Welt newspaper.

“There are 14 of us in total. My family, my uncle’s family and another relative,” says 31-year-old Ali in a telephone conversation with the German newspaper.

In the last few weeks, they have tried to cross the border into Poland eight times without success.

“They told us we would be in Germany in three or four days, and now we’re stuck here,” says Ali.

He, his family, and his relatives fell victim to organized fraud by Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, like many other people from Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, writes Die Welt.

Lukashenko lured them with the vision of a quick and uncomplicated entry into the European Union, but there has only been disappointment. For several weeks, the migrants were effectively imprisoned at the Polish-Belarusian border and could not move.

The dream of a European paradise vanished, and bitter and expensive sobering up ensued. Most migrants invested all their assets in the journey.

“To afford the trip to Germany, we had to sell our cars and apartments. We have nothing now,” notes Ali.

He claims the travel to Europe cost his family $40,000 (€35,500), but Ali’s family was far from the only one who believed Lukashenko’s promises.

Lukashenko prepared his operation for a long time

Each of the thousands of migrants who began their journey to EU via Belarus paid between $2,500 (€2,200) and $4,500 (€4,000). That means millions in revenues to the state coffer of Belarus, according to the German daily.

According to the newspaper, the new refugee crisis on the external border of the European Union is a game that Lukashenko has been preparing for a long time and even signaled his intentions in advance.

“We have been holding in drugs and migrants for a long time, but now they have to catch them in the Union themselves,” the Belarus’ president said in the parliament on May 26 this year.

At the time, Lukashenko was furious with the West over increasing pressure on Belarus after a Ryanair plane was detained in Minsk. Already at that time, Belarus had structures in place to organize illegal migration, writes Die Welt.

Over time, the Polish media reported that Lukashenko’s plan was prepared already at the beginning of the year, but the first migrant planes landed in Minsk in early May.

Then, officials picked up passengers at the airport in luxury Mercedes buses and, after a few days of hotel accommodation, transported them to the border in military vehicles. There, accompanied by soldiers, they continued to the border. In the first half of the year, the Lithuanian border was considered the gateway to the European Union.

However, it is Lithuania with less than 3 million inhabitants which, according to Die Welt, responded to the situation very quickly. Once Vilnius stepped up border protection, Belarus shifted its activities to the more than 400-kilometer-long border with Poland.

In the center of events was the Belarusian state travel agency Tsentrkurort, which set up branches in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, and Iraq.

According to the German daily, anyone who wanted to get to Europe could book a trip with one of these branches. The travel package was to include a visa, accommodation, cross-border transport, and transport to Germany.

Stanislaw Żaryn, a spokesman of the Polish secret services, also noted that the Belarusian state-owned Belavia airline was on the verge of bankruptcy. However, now it collects a lot of money thanks to illegal migration.

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