December 3, 2021

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A Younger Syrian Is Buried, as E.U. International Ministers Meet on Belarus

A Young Syrian Is Buried, as E.U. Foreign Ministers Meet on Belarus

SOKOLKA, Poland — Just a few miles from right here, within the small Polish city of Bohoniki, a younger Syrian man, Ahmed al-Hassan, was buried Monday. The 19-year-old man died in late October in a river on this freezing, forested buffer zone the place 1000’s of migrants and asylum seekers have been despatched by the Belarus authorities to attempt to break by way of into Poland and the European Union.

Because the funeral proceeded in Bohoniki, Belarusian forces had been massing giant teams of migrants and inspiring them to drive their manner throughout the Polish border at Kuznica-Bruzgi, a 15-minute drive to the northeast. There, Polish troops and cops had been deployed in lengthy strains to defend the border, which is festooned with giant spirals of razor wire.

In Brussels, European Union international ministers adopted new sanctions on the federal government of Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the Belarus chief, who has already been sanctioned for fraud in claiming a sweeping re-election victory in August and for a subsequent harsh suppression of dissent.

The brand new sanctions, permitted by European governments on Monday, would goal “people and entities organizing or contributing to actions by the Lukashenko regime that facilitate unlawful crossing of the E.U.’s exterior borders,” in response to the European Fee, the bloc’s government forms.

A listing of these to be hit by asset freezes and journey bans beneath the brand new sanctions is anticipated to be finalized in coming days. More likely to be focused are greater than two dozen Belarusian officers; a Syrian airline, Cham Wings, for having transported migrants to Belarus; the Lodge Minsk within the Belarus capital, for housing migrants; and presumably Minsk airport, in response to E.U. officers.

“At the moment’s determination displays the dedication by the European Union to face as much as the instrumentalization of migrants for political functions,” stated the E.U. international coverage chief, Josep Borrell Fontelles. “We’re pushing again on this inhuman and unlawful follow.”

The European Union has referred to as Mr. Lukashenko’s efforts “a hybrid assault,” saying that he has inspired migrants to fly into Belarus from international locations like Syria and Iraq with the specific goal of sending them on to the European Union in retaliation for the sooner sanctions.

The brand new sanctions must endure authorized vetting by the European Fee earlier than being carried out and coordinated with the Britain, Canada and america, which might take a number of weeks.

The rising numbers of migrants on the Kuznica-Bruzgi border crossing on Monday, which has raised fears of further tragedy and confrontation between the 2 governments, seemed to be a response by Mr. Lukashenko to the assembly of the E.U. international ministers. Mr. Lukashenko has vowed to retaliate towards recent sanctions, though his main supporter, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, has chastised him for threatening to chop off provides of the Russian pure fuel that flows by way of his nation to Europe.

Mr. Lukashenko was mistaken and talking in anger, Mr. Putin stated, whereas underlining that Russia would strictly respect its fuel contracts with Europe — a key message as he tries to get closing approval to make use of the controversial Nord Stream 2 fuel pipeline that goes on to Germany and thus bypasses Belarus, Poland and Ukraine.

Because the E.U. ministers weighted the brand new sanctions, the state of affairs on the border seemed to be deteriorating.

A video despatched to The New York Occasions by Nishan Abdulqadr Mustafa, a 25-year-old Kurd from Iraq who’s on the Belarusian aspect of the border, confirmed tons of of migrants stranded outdoors the checkpoint at Kuznica-Bruzgi. “We’re going to Poland,” he stated. “It’s simply too chilly, we can’t take it anymore.”

Poland and Lithuania, which have seen a surge in migrants making an attempt to cross to Belarus, have declared states of emergency and closed border areas to journalists and assist employees, though some Polish assist teams have been working to assist these caught within the freezing circumstances between Belarusian and Polish forces.

Mr. Lukashenko, nonetheless, has allowed the media to roam his aspect of the border, to spotlight the distress of the migrants and asylum seekers and to attempt to deflect blame for the disaster from his personal authorities onto a European Union that refuses to open its borders.

The tales of these trapped within the border zone have been heartbreaking.

Mr. Hasan, the 19-year-old, who was from Homs, in Syria, was discovered within the river in late October close to Bohoniki, the historic residence of Poland’s Muslim Tatar minority, the place there’s a mosque, and an imam capable of conduct the funeral companies for him.

Fida al-Hasan, a Syrian physician who lives within the close by city of Bialystok, got here to the funeral along with his father, who was visiting from Canada. “I got here to Bohoniki mosque to wish,” Mr. Al-Hasan stated. “We got here right here in the present day as a result of it’s our responsibility to wish for the soul of this boy. He has no household right here.”

Two Syrians discovered late Sunday by assist employees, and seen by The New York Occasions, had been stranded within the forest straddling the Polish-Belarusian border for days and had been in a sophisticated stage of hypothermia. With their faces half-frozen and their lips blue from the chilly, they had been barely capable of utter a phrase to the help employees who discovered them.

“They’d been within the forest for no less than 4 days,” stated Agata Kolodziej from Fundacja Ocalenie, a Polish charity that has been serving to migrants since September. “They solely informed us their names, we don’t know something extra.”

The brothers, Layous, 41 and Khedr, 39, had been from the town of Homs in Syria. A medical employee helped to hold the brothers to an ambulance parked on the sting of an unlit street subsequent to Orla, Poland, round 15 miles from the border, the help employees stated.

The activists on the border stated that they had been receiving a number of messages a day from determined migrants over the previous two months. However since final week, their telephones have gone largely silent. The Syrian brothers had been one of many few that reached out for assist after getting the numbers of the activists, which have been circulating extensively amongst migrants on the border.

As an alternative, the one signal of migrants managing to cross the border, passing by way of one among Europe’s oldest and densest forests, are objects that assist employees and residents have discovered on each day patrols: a backpack full of paperwork and passport photos; an empty tuna can with a Belarusian label; a Cham Wings boarding move for a flight between Damascus and Minsk; an ophthalmologist prescription written in Arabic.

However in any other case the help employees say they’ve seen few indicators of precise migrants.

For the reason that migration disaster of 2015, on the top of the Syrian warfare, when greater than one million migrants and asylum seekers tried coming into Europe, the Europeans have tightened their border controls and declared that uncontrolled migration is now not doable. That has resulted in ugly scenes in locations from Greece and Italy to Hungary and now Poland and Lithuania, as migrants attempt to enter the European Union.

European officers insist, nonetheless, that, not like previous crises, the scenes on the border between Belarus and Poland aren’t due to migrant points, however are the results of a type of warfare by Mr. Lukashenko.

Mr. Lukashenko, chatting with state media on Monday, denied orchestrating the present disaster and dismissed the specter of recent sanctions. “We are going to defend ourselves. That’s it, there’s nowhere to retreat additional,” he was quoted as saying by the state information company, Belta.

Brussels has already succeeded in getting some airways, together with Turkish Airways and Belavia, the Belarusian state airline, to agree to stop migrants from flying to Minsk. Officers hope that restricted journey coupled with robust measures on the border will dissuade others within the Center East from making an attempt the brand new path to Europe by way of Belarus.

Monika Pronczuk reported from Sokolka, Poland, and Steven Erlanger from Brussels.

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