The parliament of Belarus on Monday passed legislation allowing the country to refuse to take back migrants from the EU.
“We have duly notified the EU that we are suspending this agreement,” said Belarusian Minister of Internal Affairs Ivan Kubrakov of the 2020 readmission deal with the EU.
The suspension of the agreement with the EU is likely to worsen tensions on the borders with Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. EU and national authorities accuse Belarus of flying potential migrants in to Minsk and then sending them to try to enter the EU illegally. That’s created a migration crisis, with all three EU countries declaring states of emergencies and deploying troops, border guards and police to their frontiers to stop people from crossing.
The three EU countries are pushing migrants back onto Belarusian territory. Poland is being called out by human rights groups for refusing to process asylum applications from migrants; five people have died along the border as temperatures begin to drop.
The Belarusian parliament’s speaker, Vladimir Andreichenko, accused the EU countries of “shocking facts of the treatment of migrants.”
“We are obliged to protect our country and its citizens by all available means,” Andreichenko told MPs. “This should be our main criterion when considering the draft law on suspension of the readmission agreement.”
Poland’s Border Guard said there were 434 attempts at illegally crossing the border from Belarus on Sunday; 16 Iraqi nationals were detained, while others were stopped from entering the country.
Lithuania recorded 49 attempts to cross the border on Sunday, all blocked by authorities.
Alexander Lukashenko, the authoritarian leader of Belarus, last month called for the readmission agreement to be scrapped, with his office saying it was “in response to unfriendly actions of the European Union and its member states towards Belarus.”
Lukashenko is angry at the EU for imposing sanctions against him and his top allies in response to the regime’s violent crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators.
The European Commission said last week it would partially suspend the EU-Belarus visa facilitation agreement for government officials because of Minsk’s attempts “to destabilise the EU and its Member States by facilitating irregular migration for political purposes.” It means that regime officials will face more paperwork to get an EU visa and will see their application fees rise from €35 to €60.