Kurdistan Region parliamentary committee to visit Poland to assess Belarus migrant crisis

Chiya Sharif, a lawmaker in the Kurdistan Region Parliament. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)
Chiya Sharif, a lawmaker in the Kurdistan Region Parliament. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A Kurdistan Region lawmaker told Kurdistan 24 on Saturday that a parliamentary committee is preparing to visit Poland in the coming days to assess the current emergency situation there for large numbers of migrants trapped along the border. 

Thousands of civilians, many of them Kurds from Syria and Iraq, have gathered at the Belarussian border with Poland hoping to reach Europe and are now stuck there amid increasingly freezing weather conditions.

“We have asked permission from the Kurdistan parliament as a committee to visit the border of Poland and Belarus,” said Chiya Sharif, a member of the Foreign Relations and Kurdish Diaspora Committee, who said the request had been approved.

“Once we get visas, we will immediately travel to Poland and discuss with Polish officials and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) representation in Poland about what the government can do to provide humanitarian help to Kurdish migrants near the border,” he said.

“The people are in a desperate situation there and soon it will become colder there. We will try to talk to NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and other organizations to see what they can do to help the people and then we will look at the camps and see if people are treated well.”

After the trip to Poland, he continued, committee members might go to Lithuania, where additional Kurdish migrants have also been trying to cross the border into Europe. “After that, we will travel to Brussels in Belgium and will see what the European Union can do to support the refugees.”

“We will see if Poland has a plan to receive migrants or not,” he explained. “We hear that people are treated badly on the border in violation of their human rights. Moreover, we will also ask if people want to return to Kurdistan, but not by force, referring to the longstanding policy of both the Kurdistan Region and Iraq to refuse forced repatriations of their nationals.

“Only if they want to return to Kurdistan voluntarily will we will try to assist them.”

On Wednesday, a 14-year old Kurdish boy froze to death on the border of Belarus and Poland, Infomigrants reports. Observers expect that more Kurdish migrants and refugees are likely to die as the temperature continues to plummet if nothing is done to protect them. So far, at least 10 migrants are known to have died due to the harsh winter conditions.

During a press conference on Wednesday in Erbil, Safeen Dizayee, head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations (DFR), said that the Kurdistan Region is ready to facilitate the return of those who voluntarily want to return to the region.

Read More: 'KRG is ready to facilitate the voluntary return of migrants to the region': official

"As you know today, there are political problems between Belarus and the EU and those people on the border are the victims of these political problems," he added.

"We call on our people not to put their destiny in the hands of human traffickers. As we see in the photos, the families are facing an unknown destiny in the cold weather and there have even been two Kurdish deaths so far."

He made a point to re-emphasize that the KRG doesn't want Kurdish migrants to be pressured to come back against their will. "We call on the EU to provide humanitarian support to the migrants temporarily until the problem is solved."   

Moreover, some reports claim that the European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas will soon visit the Kurdistan Region capital Erbil and other capitals in the region to discuss the migrant issue as it is playing out on the Belarus-Polish border.

On Friday, Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs ordered a temporary ban order on direct flights with Belarus in an attempt to prevent what an official described as "human smuggling," the official Iraqi News Agency reported Friday.

Read More: Iraq halts direct flights with Belarus amid migrant crisis

The announcement comes as a Belarusian airline said it would temporarily ban nationals of Iraq, Syria, and Yemen – from where a number of the migrants also began their journeys – from boarding incoming flights from Turkey.