Iraq sends planes to Belarus to repatriate more migrants stranded at the border

Two Iraqi planes took off for Belarus on Thursday night to repatriate Iraqis stuck on the former Soviet state’s border with Poland, the Ministry of Transport said.

Hundreds of Iraqis, most of them Kurds, returned home last week on a voluntary repatriation flight from Belarus, where thousands of migrants have camped at the border for weeks in hopes of joining the EU.

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A first plane with 185 people was to land in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq, after midnight, Lawk Ghafuri, head of foreign media relations in Kurdistan, told AFP.

On November 18, a total of 431 Iraqis were flown home from Belarus, many returning with mixed feelings.

Most said they had used their savings, sold valuables and even taken out loans to escape economic difficulties in Iraq and start a new life in the EU, but they never crossed the border.

The West accuses Belarus of bringing in potential migrants – mainly from the Middle East – under the false pretext that they will cross into EU members Poland and Lithuania.

Belarus has rejected the claim, criticizing the EU for not accepting migrants.

Aid groups say at least 11 migrants have died on both sides of the border since the crisis began this summer, and have criticized the Polish government over its policy of pushing migrants back.

Read more:

Syrian airline suspends Belarus flights due to migrant crisis

In the Kurdish city of Iraq, many take a perilous route to Europe via Belarus

Iraq is stopping direct flights with Belarus in an attempt to stem human trafficking

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