EU must remain united as Belarus uses desperate migrants as weapons

Intentionally sending large numbers of migrants into European Union member states is a clear attempt to divide the bloc. Inhumane acts that endanger the lives of migrants are unacceptable.

After entering Belarus, Middle Eastern migrants hoping to settle in Europe have flooded the border with Poland, an EU member country, leading to continuing chaos there. The EU has accused Belarus of supporting illegal border crossings and instrumentalizing migrants for political purposes.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994 and is known as “Europe’s last dictator,” has been at odds with Western nations that are critical of his crackdown on antigovernment movements.

The number of migrants entering the country from the Middle East has increased sharply since June this year when the EU tightened sanctions on Belarus. It is believed that travel agencies were used to collect would-be migrants, and once they entered Belarus, its military transported them to areas near the Polish border.

For any country, the acceptance of migrants and refugees is a divisive issue. Lukashenko’s approach of countering EU pressure by weaponizing migrants is outrageous.

Migrants who have been denied entry by Poland are said to be stranded in the cold and their health is in danger. Belarus has a responsibility to ensure the security of migrants as long as it has allowed them into the country. Belarus should provide temporary protection in its own country and help them return home.

While the EU is preoccupied with migrants in Belarus, Russia has been massing troops along its border with Ukraine, raising threat levels.

It seems that Russia, which supports Belarus, is cooperating with the Lukashenko administration on this issue as well, and is maneuvering to ensure that the situation in Europe develops in Russia’s favor.

It is important for the EU to remain united without being swayed by Belarus or Russia.

Some EU member states that are against accepting migrants and refugees, including Poland and Hungary, have stepped up measures to block them such as by erecting fences along their borders. There is still a gap between these countries and other members, such as Germany, which insist that EU member states should accept refugees fairly and share the burden.

There must not be a repeat of the disagreements that arose among EU member states over the massive influx of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa in 2015. The EU needs to continue to seek a common position on issues regarding migrants and refugees.

As long as political instability persists in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and other countries, it will be impossible to stem the flow of migrants and refugees. There will be situations, like this time, in which they will be used for political ends. The international community’s persistent support for these countries would be a preventive measure.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Nov. 24, 2021.