The KRG showed ‘good understanding of the harsh political situation’ with Belarus migrant crisis: Political scientist

“The EU needs to start an information campaign with the countries where the migrants are coming from to show what is actually happening so that the migrants do not spend their lifesavings on false dreams of easy travel to the EU.”
Lukas Andriukaitis at the annual DFRLab's 360/OS event in Berlin, 2018. (Photo: Lukas Andriukaitis)
Lukas Andriukaitis at the annual DFRLab's 360/OS event in Berlin, 2018. (Photo: Lukas Andriukaitis)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - Lukas Andriukaitis, Associate Director at the American Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab), congratulated the Kurdistan Regional Government for its efforts in helping Kurdish migrants trapped on the Belarus-Poland border.

KRG showed ‘a good understanding of the harsh political situation’

“I congratulate these efforts by the Kurdistan Regional Government, as it shows a good understanding of the harsh political situation,” Andriukaitis told Kurdistan 24 in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.

Belarusian servicemen guard an area as migrants gather at the Belarus-Poland border near Grodno, Belarus. (Photo: Leonid Shcheglov/AP)
Belarusian servicemen guard an area as migrants gather at the Belarus-Poland border near Grodno, Belarus. (Photo: Leonid Shcheglov/AP)

Andriukaitis warned that the harsh winters in Poland and Lithuania could lead to more deaths among the Kurds there and urged them to immediately seek help to get back home.

Read More: PM Masrour Barzani says 'concerned' by 'plight' of Kurds stuck on EU borders

“The winters in Poland and Lithuania are very rough and if they are not evacuated soon more deaths will be announced every day,” he said. “I urge the Kurdish people who got tricked to look for help in getting back home as soon as possible.”

“I am very sorry for the situation they got into; this is a horrible example of human trafficking in the 21st century.”

Migrants and refugees on Poland-Belarus border, who face subzero temperatures and a lack of food and medical attention (Photo: Leonid Scheglov/AFP)
Migrants and refugees on Poland-Belarus border, who face subzero temperatures and a lack of food and medical attention (Photo: Leonid Scheglov/AFP)

Andriukaitis also expressed his hope that these Kurdish families can safely return home.

Read More: Iraq conducts first repatriation flight for citizens in Belarus

“I hope that the Kurds tricked by those traffickers can safely return home in the short-term, and be able to get justice in legal ways from Belarus in the long-term,” he said.

Situation on the Poland-Belarus border is a hybrid war

Andriukaitis described what is currently happening on the Poland-Belarus border as a hybrid war, in which a lot of innocent migrants have become part of through deception.

“The migrants were seduced and tricked by false promises,” he said. “It is important to note that these migrants came to Belarus by buying package deals from (Belarusian President) Alexander Lukashenka’s regime. These packages included a tourist visa for entering Belarus, airline tickets to Minsk, and transportation to the border with the EU.”

Read More: EU Vice President to visit Kurdistan to discuss Belarus migrant crisis

“They have been lied to and promised quick and easy travel to Germany and now they are being forced to storm the Polish border by Belarusian soldiers and border guards,” he added.

Lukashenka is sending a political message to EU

Andriukaitis told Kurdistan 24 that Lukashenka is trying to create a situation in which the EU is forced to negotiate with him, lift all its sanctions on Belarus and accept him as a legitimate leader of the country in exchange for him ending this migrant crisis.

“Lukashenka is expecting the EU to pay Belarus for stopping the flow of migrants, similar to how Turkey was paid by the EU a few years ago,” Andriukaitis said.

Polish border guards surround migrants in the village of Usnarz Gorny near Bialystok, Poland, close to the border with Belarus, Aug. 20, 2021. (Photo: Wojtek Radwanski AFP)
Polish border guards surround migrants in the village of Usnarz Gorny near Bialystok, Poland, close to the border with Belarus, Aug. 20, 2021. (Photo: Wojtek Radwanski AFP)

“Lukashenka is clearly sending a message that he is going to do whatever it takes to stay in power, including fighting a dangerous hybrid war. He is trying to get his revenge on the EU for its support of the democratic protests that have been taking place in Belarus over the illegitimate elections,” he added.

Human suffering of migrants will not be tolerated

“Lukashenka needs to be forced to stop flying in migrants from various countries to Belarus,” Andriukaitis said. “This can be achieved by sanctioning the airlines and economically sanctioning Belarus or even closing the border between Belarus and the EU if necessary.”

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

He insisted that Lukashenka must face consequences for this international human trafficking and the suffering he has caused these migrants.

“Lukashenka needs to face consequences for international human trafficking and migrants who died because of his cruel realpolitik,” Andriukaitis said. “He needs to be shown that human suffering of migrants will not be tolerated.”

Belarusian servicemen set a tent for migrants gathering at the Belarus-Poland border near Grodno, Belarus. (Photo: Leonid Shcheglov/AP)
Belarusian servicemen set a tent for migrants gathering at the Belarus-Poland border near Grodno, Belarus. (Photo: Leonid Shcheglov/AP)

“With the help of international organizations like UNICEF, most of these migrants need to be taken home where they came from, as the vast majority of the migrants are economic migrants, they need to be allowed to safely return home,” he added.

Read More: Kurdistan Region parliamentary committee to visit Poland to assess Belarus migrant crisis

What the EU needs to do

Andriukaitis insisted that the EU cannot give into Lukashenka’s demands.

“His actions cannot be tolerated, because if EU negotiates with him, it will show Lukashenka that he can do whatever he wants as long as he threatens EU with illegal migration,” he said.

Rather than give into his demands, the EU should use sanctions against Belarus to force Lukashenka to stop this dangerous behavior Andriukaitis argued.

Migrants gather to receive humanitarian aid in a camp on the Belarus-Poland border, November 12, 2021. (Photo: Ramil Nasibulin Belta/AFP)
Migrants gather to receive humanitarian aid in a camp on the Belarus-Poland border, November 12, 2021. (Photo: Ramil Nasibulin Belta/AFP)

“The EU needs to start an information campaign with the countries where the migrants are coming from to show what is actually happening so that the migrants do not spend their lifesavings on false dreams of easy travel to the EU,” he said. “Once the situation is normalized, the EU needs to help the migrants return home safely.”

Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani also expressed his concerns about the migrant crisis. He noted that the migrants now trapped on the border were exploited by “travel agents, human traffickers, some of the political merchants, and some people in Belarus as well.”

“Those who recently migrated from Kurdistan Region have spent thousands of dollars on travel agents and other individuals to reach the Belarus-Poland border,” Barzani said.

He made the remarks during the two-day Middle East Peace and Security (MEPS) Forum held at the American University of Kurdistan in Dohuk.