The EU has released a bill that would blacklist airlines and travel operators that transport people to border countries as part of attempts to destabilize the bloc, in its latest response to the border crisis Polish-Belarusian.
The proposal does not specifically mention Belarus, whose authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko is accused of having organized the arrival of thousands of people at the Polish border, where a desperate humanitarian situation has played out in recent weeks.
Companies could be banned from flying over the EU, landing and refueling at EU airports, whether their involvement in destabilization attempts is intentional or not. The proposal fills a gap in EU sanctions laws, which are specific to each country.
The EU recently agreed to extend sanctions against Belarus, but it can only target Belarusian companies rather than foreign airlines involved in transporting people from the Middle East to Minsk.
Ylva Johansson, EU Home Affairs Commissioner, said the law was needed in response to an unprecedented situation. She said Lukashenko “was trying to sell tickets to the EU”, charging people € 10,000-20,000 for a one-way trip to Minsk and a subsequent trip to the EU border.
“We see the need to contact travel agencies directly which – unwittingly, most of the time – are part of a state-sponsored smuggling program orchestrated by a desperate, undemocratic regime,” Johansson said.
European Commission officials believe that much of the value of the law lies in the power to deter companies from getting involved in such programs. “I hope we don’t need to use it,” Johansson said, adding that it took airlines “a while to figure out how they are used.”
Turkish Airlines and Iraqi Airways have restricted flights to Minsk after EU officials began talks with Middle Eastern governments on the issue.
Addressing the European Parliament, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the situation on the EU’s eastern border was “not a migration crisis, but an attempt by an authoritarian regime to attempt to destabilize its democratic neighbors “.
“These migrants are deceived by terrible false promises. We must fight against this and that is why we want to establish a blacklist for all modes and means of transport on the basis of international law.
She urged MEPs to support the proposals to ensure they are approved quickly.
The proposal must also be approved by EU ministers.
The Belarusian interior ministry said more people would leave the country on Tuesday, after 122 left on Monday.
Lukashenko admitted in a recent BBC interview that it was “entirely possible” that Belarusian state troops were helping people cross the Polish border, although he denied being responsible for the crisis.
Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis who managed to cross the border and reach the Polish town of Białystok told the Guardian that they had purchased visa travel packages from agencies that appeared to be closely linked to the Belarusian authorities.
Since the start of the crisis, around 7,500 people from the Middle East have arrived in Lithuania, Latvia and Poland via Belarus, and 8,000 have arrived in Germany from Belarus via Poland, according to EU officials. .
Last month the Polish parliament pass a law allowing border guards to send asylum seekers back across the border without hearing their asylum claims.
Johannson, a Swedish social democrat responsible for EU migration policy, said the committee had “problems” with Polish law. “We believe that there are elements of this law which are not in line with the EU acquis,” she said.
Under the Geneva Conventions, refugees cannot be penalized for illegal border crossings.
People stuck in the no man’s land between the EU and Belarus have spoken of being pushed between the two countries, being denied entry to Poland and returning to Belarus. Asked about the many reports of pushbacks, Johansson said it was not EU policy. “We don’t allow pushbacks. We will not allow pushbacks.
She added: “We should not legalize refoulements, but it is also important to say that member states are obliged to prevent unauthorized entry. Sometimes the debate is a bit black or white. We have to do both. We do not have free entry into the European Union… We have to protect our external border but we have to do it in a way that is consistent with European values.