BERLIN (AP) – German Foreign Minister said airlines transporting potential migrants from the European Union to Belarus should consider whether they want to be part of a ‘smuggling network’ run by the leader authoritarian of the country.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas’ comments on Thursday to the Bild daily came as his country sees a significant increase the number of migrants arriving via Belarus and neighboring Poland.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is among European leaders who have joined Poland in accusing the government of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of facilitating migration to the EU as a form of “hybrid war” in retaliation for EU sanctions.
Thousands of migrants have been lured to Belarus on tourist visas and encouraged to enter Poland, Lithuania and, to a lesser extent, Latvia, the three EU countries that border Belarus.
“Every day, hundreds of desperate people arrive at Minsk airport. Lukashenko lures them with false promises to send them on a dangerous and illegal journey to the EU, ”Maas told Bild. “The airlines that transport these people are assisting the leaders of Minsk. “
Maas did not choose any airline by name. But he said that “these companies must ask themselves whether they want to be part of an international unscrupulous smuggling network under the leadership of Lukashenko – and what consequences this may have for them”.
He said the issue will be discussed at a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday.
Follow AP’s global migration coverage on https://apnews.com/hub/migration