SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Kurdish Prime Minister Masrour Barzani on Monday called on France to help secure relief to migrants stranded on the border between Belarus and Poland, a government statement said.
Barzani spoke by phone with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to discuss the situation of migrants on the border between Belarus and Poland, according to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Iraqis, especially Kurds, have made up a significant number of the estimated 4,000 migrants waiting in freezing forests and trying to cross into Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.
Now, hundreds of would-be migrants are returning home having failed to cross the heavily guarded frontier. Some described the harsh conditions of living in the forest in winter, often with young children, and of beatings by border guards.
Last week, around 430 would-be migrants, mostly Kurds, touched down in Erbil on a flight from Minsk. The plane took off again for Baghdad where it deposited other returnees.
“Both leaders described it as an organized smuggling operation to advance a political dispute,” the KRG said.
The KRG premier stressed the government’s continued readiness to voluntary returns of Kurdish migrants stuck on the border.
He “urged Foreign Minister Le Drian to help secure relief to the families stranded on the border,” the KRG stated.
They also agreed to have a technical team from Paris visit the Kurdistan Region and Baghdad to explore additional measures, according to the statement.
About 3,000 Kurds have left the region in the past three months, of whom 1,600 have gone to Belarus on tourist visas, according to the Kurdistan Refugee Association.
Regular air links between Baghdad and Minsk have been suspended since August, while Belarusian diplomatic missions in Baghdad and Erbil have been closed for more than a week.
Last week, Turkey and UAE banned citizens of Iraq, Syria and Yemen from flying from its airports to Belarus.
At least eight people have died at the border in recent months, including a 19-year-old Syrian man who drowned in a river trying to cross to the EU, according to Reuters.