Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the European Council, has issued a statement on behalf of the EU regarding the usage of migrants as a political tool by Belarus against the EU.
Belarus has officially begun knowingly allowing migrants cross EU external borders as a form of political retaliation against the EU for Europe’s response to their interception and forced landing of RyanAir flight 4978. The forced landing resulted in the arrest of Belarusian journalist Roman Pretasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega, a clear violation of the freedom of the press.
The EU’s reaction to Belarus’s violations of human rights regarding the 2020 elections, flight 4978, arrest of Roman Pretasevich, and other infractions have resulted in large sanctions packages, which hava brought retaliation from Belarus against the EU, including breaking the agreements with the EU to help secure mutual borders.
Borrell stated that the EU denounces Belarus’s utilization of migrants from poorer countries as a political weapon and will strengthen the EU’s external borders shared with Belarus.
“The instrumentalisation of migrants and refugees is utterly unacceptable. Using human beings in need to advance political goals violates fundamental European values and principles. Accordingly, the EU and its member states condemn the instrumentalisation of migrants and refugees by the Belarusian regime,” Borrel said. He continued, “The EU and its member states will address the ongoing surge in irregular crossings into the EU from Belarus to preserve the integrity of its external border. In line with its gradual approach, the EU will consider the possibility of restrictive measures targeted at migrants’ smugglers abusing human rights or those otherwise involved in trafficking in human beings.”
Borrell announced specifically that the EU would expand and deploy FRONTEX, Europe’s border control and coast guard agency responsible for securing external borders. He also said that the EU would work in conjunction with the countries from which migrants are crossing with new dialogues and partnerships.
“The EU and its member states remain determined to effectively manage migratory flows in order to protect the EU’s external borders. People who have no right to stay in the EU shall be returned. In this context, the EU and its member states will take all necessary measures in accordance with EU and international law. The EU and its member states, in solidarity, already increased their support, including through the deployment of the FRONTEX rapid border intervention and additional technical assistance, and are ready to strengthen it even further. Member states will swiftly provide the support necessary to ensure the immediate deployment of the relevant teams and assets,” Borrell said. He continued, “We will continue to implement our external migration policy. We will work to further strengthen EU return capacities as part of a comprehensive approach, including through dialogues and partnerships with the countries of origin and transit.”