Second batch of Iraqis return after Europe gamble fails

A second batch of Iraqis have returned home on repatriation flights after a failed bid to enter Europe

More than 170 people returned from a flight that landed at Irbil International Airport just after 2 a.m. in Iraq’s northern Kurdish region. A disproportionate number of Iraqis repatriated from Belarus have been Iraqi Kurds. This is the second repatriation flight returning from Minsk. On Thursday, 430 Iraqis returned home.

Another flight was expected to arrive at 7 a.m. Friday, according to a tweet by the semi-autonomous Kurdistan government spokesman Lock Ghafoori. Word has not yet surfaced on that flight.

All cited the brutality of Belarusian border officials – from beatings to threats – and attempts to push them to cross into neighboring EU countries Poland and Lithuania.

“We are very grateful to be home, because the humanity and justice that people say about Europe is far from reality. It is not true at all. We have been beaten up badly,” said returning to the airport. Wale Awat Nasir said.

“Now people are regretting that they went there and demanded to come back home because it is now minus 15 degrees in Belarus,” he said.

Thousands of migrants are stranded between the borders. Most are fleeing conflict or despair in the Middle East and aim to reach Germany or other Western European countries. But Poland has taken a tough stand about letting them in, and Belarus did not want them to return to the capital of Minsk or otherwise settle in the country.

The West has accused Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko of using migrants as pawns to destabilize the 27-nation bloc in retaliation for sanctions on his authoritarian regime. Belarus denies the engineering crisis, which has seen migrants enter the country since the summer and then try to cross into Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

“The hardest part is when you see the kids are stuck there,” said Imad Hussain, another retreat. “It’s very difficult.”


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