The Slovenia Times

EU presidency condemns Belarus's abuse of migrants for political gain

Politics

Brussels - The Slovenian EU presidency strongly supports and expresses solidarity with the EU countries which have come under pressure from illegal migrants from Belarus, Slovenian Interior Minister AleŇ° Hojs said as he was en route to host a session of EU home affairs ministers to discuss a recent migrant influx from Belarus on Wednesday.

The presidency condemns Belarus's attempts to abuse people for political purposes, Hojs stressed before today's online emergency session called by the Slovenian EU presidency upon Lithuania's request.

The focus will be on the situation on the external EU border with Belorus and the countries which have been hit by illegal migrations from Belarus, most notably Lithuania. But since "the situation on the ground is changing very fast, I think we also have to focus on Latvia and Poland," said Hojs.

The Slovenian minister, who is in Brussels for the session, hopes for a very open and successful discussion.

His Austrian counterpart Karl Nehammer criticised Belarus for trying to use illegal migrants to force the EU to lift sanctions. He told the Austrian press agency APA before the session that he found it unacceptable to abuse people to pursue "a policy of extortion".

Lithuania has been under much pressure as illegal migrants from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria have been coming across the border from Belarus. Lithuanian authorities have recorded more than 4,000 illegal crossings of the border this year.

Due to enhanced surveillance on the border and a freeze on all flights from Iraq to Belarus, arrivals by illegal migrants have significantly dropped in recent weeks, however, they have increased in Latvia and Poland.

Today's meeting is expected to agree on concrete measures and forms of aid to the stricken countries in managing and containing illegal crossings on the border. Concerted action to protect the integrity and security of this segment of the EU external border is also expected to be on the agenda.

EU home ministers are meeting as part of the Integrated Political Crisis Response mechanism, which enables rapid and concerted decision-making in major crises.

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