Iraq suspends air travel to Belarus to curb human trafficking

Immigrants are standing behind a fence in a newly constructed refugee camp at the Ludninkai Military Training Ground, about 38 km (23.6 miles) south of Vilnius, Lithuania, on Wednesday, August 4, 2021.
Immigrants are standing behind a fence in a newly constructed refugee camp at the Ludninkai Military Training Ground, about 38 km (23.6 miles) south of Vilnius, Lithuania, on Wednesday, August 4, 2021.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – On Friday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein confirmed the government has temporarily suspended travel to Belarus.

A foreign ministry statement said the minister was “following with interest the issue of Iraqi immigrants and the dangers arising from it,” and that Iraqis “were and still are targets for smuggling and human trafficking networks, posing real consequences for the security and lives of Iraqi individuals.”

The ministry urged Iraqis “not to fall into the trap” of human smugglers, and said Baghdad had put in place measures “that would limit the exploitation of travelers to several countries,” including a halt to air travel to Belarus.

Hussein’s statement came after phone calls with his Lithuanian and Latvian counterparts, Gabrielius Landsbergis and Edgars Rinkevics, and with Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for Politics and Security.

He noted that Iraqi laws guarantee freedom of travel, but said human trafficking and expanding smuggling networks post danger to Iraqis.

On Wednesday, the leaders of Estonia and Lithuania asked Baghdad to help stem the tide of the smuggling of Iraqis into Europe through Belarus, which they accuse of intentionally stoking migrant crises in EU member states.

Iraq’s Deputy Parliament Speaker Bashir Haddad said on Thursday that the government will repatriate Iraqis who are now stranded in Lithuania.