Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko on Friday promised food and warm clothing to migrants who choose to stay on the border between the former Soviet nation and Poland and will not return to their homeland.
Lukashenko made the pledge during a visit to a facility that accommodates migrants at the border.
“My job is to help you, to help people in trouble,” said Lukashenko, addressing thousands of migrants during a tour of the facility that accommodates migrants at the Bruzgi warehouse. “We, Belarusians, including ourselves, will do everything you want, even if it is bad for Poles, Latvians and anyone else.”
“We will work together with you on your dream,” said Lukashenko.
Lukashenko’s visit comes after weeks of tension at the border, where hundreds of people are stranded. Since November 8, a large group of people, mostly from the Middle East, have been stranded in Belarus across the border with Poland, with the forces of the two countries pitted against each other. Most are fleeing conflict or a sense of despair at home, and aim to reach Germany or other Western European countries.
Lukashenko again called on Germany to accept immigrants.
German government spokesman Stefan Seibert on Friday strongly denied Lukashenko’s claims that Germany has agreed to take 2,000 migrants currently into Belarus.
“It is not true that Germany has agreed to this,” he told reporters in Berlin.
Videos and photos taken by local media outlets show Belarus’ authoritarian leader surveying conditions in crowded areas of migrants. Russia’s state RIA Novosti news agency reported that crowds of migrants applauded Lukashenko upon his arrival.
Lukashenko said that in addition to about 2,000 people at the border facility, another 2,000 to 3,000 more migrants currently live in Belarus. He promised the migrants that Belarusian authorities would help them return to their home countries – but only if they wanted to.
“Under no circumstances will we take you into custody, tie your hands, put you on a plane and send you home,” Lukashenko said.
Lukashenko said about 200 migrants still manage to enter the EU illegally every day.
More than 170 people returned to Iraq’s northern Kurdish-run region on Friday and another return flight was expected later in the day. Last week, 430 Iraqis returned home after a failed attempt to reach the European Union.
The West has accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of using them as pawns to destabilize the 27-nation European Union in retaliation for his sanctions on his authoritarian government in Western Europe with the promise of helping thousands of migrants to Belarus. tempted to Belarus denies the engineering crisis.