The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, issued a statement calling for more sanctions on the Belarusian regime, as well as other parties involved in the alleged smuggling of Middle Eastern migrants to the EU border.

“The EU will in particular explore how to sanction, including through blacklisting, third country airlines that are active in human trafficking,” von der Leyen said in the statement published on November 8, 2021.  

The statement follows numerous reports of large groups of mostly Middle-Eastern migrants in Belarus moving towards the Polish border and clashing with border guards. 

Various EU countries, primarily Germany, Poland and Lithuania, accused Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko of orchestrating a migrant crisis by soliciting a flow of migrants from Iraq and other destinations to Belarus and then directing them towards the EU border.

According to numerous reports, the flow was induced by offering cheap Belarusian tourist visas to Iraq, Syrian, Congolese, Cameroonian and other nationals, promising easier passage into the EU, and increasing the frequency of flights between Middle Eastern destinations and Minsk. 

Thousands of migrants have reportedly used this route to get to Belarus, where government forces directed and allegedly even helped them to reach the Polish or Lithuanian border. 

Von der Leyen has not named particular airlines that could face sanctions.