The Observers

Migrants in Belarus faced with two choices: Cross the border or go home

Migrants in Belarus went out to protest after the police gave them two options: cross the border into Poland or be deported back home.
Migrants in Belarus went out to protest after the police gave them two options: cross the border into Poland or be deported back home. © Observers

The situation for migrants in Belarus hoping to enter the European Union has been worsening for weeks. Since the beginning of November, the country started carrying out repatriation flights in order to clear the large camps of migrants that had formed at the border with Poland. Then border police gave migrants two choices: cross over into Poland or be repatriated.

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Migrants told Der Spiegel and the Russian media outlet Novaya Gazeta on December 3 that members of Belarusian law enforcement agencies had asked them to cross the border into the European Union within three days or else they would be sent back to their country. This came after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had said on November 26 that the migrants would not be deported.

Given this choice, some migrants chose to go home, but others were taken by force to the airport.

This week on the Observers, we spoke to a migrant in Belarus who documented the situation at the airport and at the protests of migrants who refused to give in to this ultimatum. Farhad Mahamad is an Iraqi migrant who contacted our team with videos of the tensions.

On December 4, 2021, dozens of migrants, including many children, went out to protest to be allowed to stay in Belarus. They're asking for international aid from the EU or even the Pope, so that they don't have to return home.

These migrants didn't just want to avoid being deported. They were also hoping to avoid the difficulties on the Belarus-Poland border, where hundreds of migrants have attempted to cross into the EU. The border zone is dangerous for migrants, some of whom have already succumbed to sickness and the cold. More than 15 people have died trying to enter Poland from Belarus.

Moreover, migrants have been subject to violence on the part of both Polish and Belrusian border guards, placing them at an impasse between the two countries