Turkish Airlines refutes public allegations that the airline is aiding illegal immigration traffic to Minsk, Belarus,

The flag carrier of Turkey says that claims made by several media outlets have wrongly accused the airline of  “establishing a ground for illegal immigration traffic” to Minsk, Belarus. 

In a statement issued by the airline on November 10, 2021, the company refuted claims that it has been aiding the illegal transportation of migrants to Minsk. On November 8, 2021, thousands of migrants attempted to illegally cross the border from Belarus into Poland. 

The statement continues: “Several media organizations allege that Turkish Airlines flights to Belarus are establishing a ground for illegal immigration traffic. Our [company, ed.-] makes sure to comply with all security precautions and sensibilities in cooperation with international authorities in all its flights operated to all corners of the world.

“We would like to respectfully inform the public that the allegations in the media are without any basis.”

The official Turkish Airlines statement came after the President of the European Commission, Ursula’s von der Leyen, called for the EU to implement stricter sanctions on the Belarusian regime and 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 a statement published on November 8, 2021.  

Various EU countries, primarily Germany, Poland, and Lithuania, have 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 of illegal migrants 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. 

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Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said that the EU could ban third-party airlines connected to alleged human trafficking.