SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Belarusian honorary consulates were closed in Erbil and Baghdad on Saturday following a decision by the Iraq government, a lawmaker said.
MP Sirwan Baban told Esta Media Network that the Iraqi government had decided to close both consulates in the country.
“Today, both consulates were closed,” said Baban, member of the Kurdistan Parliament’s Committee of Foreign Affairs.
The decision is part of efforts by the Iraqi government to prevent Iraqis from immigrating to European countries through Belarus.
Despite the risk of getting stranded in Europe or perishing on the way there, hundreds of people from the Kurdistan Region and Iraq have opted to be smuggled into European Union countries via Belarus.
Hundreds of Kurdish migrants have been stuck on the border between Belarus and Poland.
Though Iraq suspended direct flights from Baghdad to Minsk in August under EU pressure, migrants are now flying via Dubai or Turkey.
The trips can cost up to $12,000 including flights and being smuggled overland once in Europe.
Several Iraqi and Kurdish migrants have died crossing into Poland from Belarus.
Poland, Lithuania and the EU have accused Belarus of encouraging migrants, mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan, to cross their borders as a form of pressure on the bloc over sanctions Brussels has imposed on Minsk over human rights abuses.
More than 37,000 Iraqis have left the country this year, according to the Lutka Foundation for Refugee and Displaced Affairs.