Using migrants as a weapon
December 6, 2021 - EU officials have accused Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus’s autocratic leader, of flying migrants into the country and encouraging them to cross the EU’s borders to destabilise the bloc.
The most recent use of migrants as coercive “weapons” in a crisis between countries is currently happening at the border between the European Union and Belarus, where thousands of migrants are stranded.
These people -- mainly from the Middle East -- have suffered inhumane conditions in increasingly freezing forests. At least 12 died trying to enter the EU.
Western authorities believe that Lukashenko has sent the migrants to the border in response to international sanctions that he received for human rights abuses.
When Lukashenko visited a group of migrants stranded on Belarus’s border with Poland on November 26, he urged them to keep trying. “If you want to go west, we won’t choke you, grab and beat you. It is your choice. Go across,” Belarus’s leader told the group.
“Go! That’s the whole philosophy. I know that what I said will not please everyone, especially abroad, but it is true, they should know the truth,” Lukashenko told migrants who had gathered outside a warehouse near Bruzgi.
The use of migration as a tool of aggression or intimidation is neither new nor rare. Since 1951 there have been at least 76 such cases, says Kelly Greenhill, a political scientist at SOAS University in London.
- Why are so many migrants coming to one of Europe’s smallest countries? (Washington Post)
- EU to make it harder for migrants to enter from Belarus (The Associated Press)
- Libyan leader seeks €5 billion a year to halt EU-bound migrants (EU Observer)
- The Mariel Boatlift: How Cold War Politics Drove Thousands of Cubans to Florida in 1980 (History)
- The new front of the “hybrid war” (Financial Times)