The Belarus–EU Border Crisis

By Dima Kulakov

The Belarus–EU border crisis is “a migrant crisis consisting of an influx of several tens of thousands of immigrants, mainly from the Middle East and Africa, to Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland via those countries’ borders with Belarus.” This was triggered by the sharp decay in Belarus–EU relations due, mainly, to the 2020 Belarusian presidential election and the 2020–2021 protests that followed.

In July of 2021 Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, “threatened to flood the European Union with human traffickers, drug smugglers and armed migrants.” Belarusian authorities and tourist enterprises, along with several Middle Eastern airlines, began promoting tours to Belarus “by increasing the number of connections from the Middle East and giving those who bought them Belarusian visas, ostensibly for hunting purposes.” Also, social media groups offered fraudulent advice regarding rules about crossing the border for prospective migrants, the majority of whom were attempting to get to Germany. The people who arrived in Belarus were given instructions (by the government) about “how and where to trespass the European Union border and what to tell the border guards on the other side of the border.” Said migrants claim that Belarus “provided them with wire cutters and axes to cut through border fences and enter the EU and that those who did not manage to cross the border were often forced to stay there by Belarusian authorities, who were accused of assaulting some migrants who failed to get across.”

Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland call the crisis “hybrid warfare and an incident of human trafficking of migrants waged by Belarus against the EU.” The three nations declared a state of emergency and made the decision to build border walls. Poland just approved “an estimated €353 million in spending to build a 60-kilometre barrier. The EU sent additional supporting officers and patrol cars to Lithuania, and twelve EU governments stated their support for a physical barrier along the border.”

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, stated that “the EU is standing in solidarity with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, who are bearing the brunt of what the EU says is President Alexander Lukashenko’s ploy to engineer a crisis by flying in migrants into Belarus and then pushing them across EU borders.”

“It is the EU as a whole that is being challenged,” von der Leyen said. “This is not a migration crisis. This is the attempt of an authoritarian regime to try to destabilise its democratic neighbours.”

The EU plans to create a “blacklist” of travel corporations that are involved in trafficking and smuggling migrants.

This would allow the EU to legally “suspend or limit the operations of companies, or even ban them from the EU if they were engaged in human trafficking, according to EU Commissioner Margaritis Schinas.”

“This is not a migration crisis, this is a security crisis,” Schinas said. According to EU statistics, in 2021, more than 40,000 attempts to enter the EU via the Belarus border were foiled.

This crisis is still in its early stages and is developing rapidly; the way it plays out will have considerable repercussions not only for the future of the EU (which has, for a long time, been criticized for its lack of authority) but other regions around the globe.