Belarus’s offices in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region closed down amid a surge in migration from Minsk to the European Union, an official told Shkoi Kurdistan.
The shutdown of the Belarusian embassy and consulate is part of an attempt to prevent the migration of Kurds and Iraqis from Minsk into the European Union, Honorary Consul of the Republic of Belarus in Kurdistan Fuad Hamad told Rudaw on Saturday.
Thousands of migrants tried to gain entry to European Union nations from Belarus this summer. The E.U. accuses Minsk of pushing migrants to their borders in protest of sanctions imposed in response to a crackdown on dissent.
“There was a lot of pressure on us for [visa] application,” Salih Sheikh Ahmed, head of a travelling company in the Kurdistan Region, told Rudaw on Saturday. “Belarus wasn’t a destination that people would go for tourism, but lately Belarus opened their borders, a lot of people went there to migrate to Germany, to Europe.”
Ahmed said that people that were mostly applying were young people between 17 and 22 years old, Yazidis and people from out of the cities, noting that closing down those offices was a “good job.”
The Belarusian consulate in Erbil and the embassy in Baghdad did not respond to requests for comment.
This year, roughly 37,000 Iraqis have left the country by unofficial means, according to data from the Summit Foundation for Refugee and Displaced Affairs (Lutka).
The Polish parliament this month passed a law that grants border guards the power to push migrants back across the border, Reuters reported, in potential violation of international law. It’s one of multiple neighbors of Belarus fortifying their borders to stop the migration.