WARSAW, Poland (AP) – Turkey’s Civil Aviation Authority said on Friday that the country has stopped selling airline tickets to Iraqi, Syrian and Yemeni citizens wishing to travel to Belarus, which in recent months has become a route for migrants and refugees to enter the European Union . .
EU leaders have put increasing pressure on airlines to stop bringing people from the Middle East to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, from where asylum seekers seeking better lives can then travel by car to the EU threshold.
Thousands have managed to cross illegally into EU member nations Poland, Lithuania and Latvia since the summer, although many thousands have also been prevented from entering or pushing back.
In a brief statement posted on Twitter, Turkey’s aviation authority said its decision to stop ticket sales is valid until further notice.
Citing the Turkish decision, Belarusian airline Belavia said it would also not transport citizens of Iraq, Syria and Yemen on its Istanbul-Minsk flights from Friday. Belavia said in a statement that it plans to reimburse the cost of tickets already purchased.
Polish authorities say a large number of people remain immediately across the border in neighboring Belarus and Polish border guards continue to reject attempts to enter Poland illegally.
The European Union and Polish officials have accused Belarus’ longtime leader, President Alexander Lukashenko, of facilitating illegal border crossings in retaliation for sanctions the EU imposed on its government for its brutal crackdown on dissent following Lukashenko’s disputed re-election last year.
A Polish official said the country’s ongoing conflict with the Belarussian government is not expected in the coming days. Paweł Soloch, the head of the National Security Office, said Poland is facing “a psychological, hybrid war, consciously waged by centers that want to weaken and ultimately strive to destroy our country.”
Poland’s border guards said on the previous day that they had registered 223 attempts to illegally cross the Polish border of Belarus, less than before in the week.
The Polish Ministry of Defense said one group had crossed the border at the village of Kuznica and had been arrested by soldiers, border guards and police. They posted video which they said showed the event.
The information was impossible to verify. Independent journalists face limits to their reporting in Belarus, and a state of emergency in Poland’s border zone is preventing media from entering the area.
The Associated Press