Migration pressure as a political weapon against the EU: Turkey, Morocco and now Belarus

The “hybrid attack” is what the European Union has called the migration pressure that Belarus is using on the border with Poland. The term describes a form of attack using any type of element – ​​not direct violence – to destabilize or weaken a rival. In this case, thousands of people (about 4,000 according to the Polish government) are used as a political weapon, leaving them dry between the border with Poland and a wall guarded by Belarusian soldiers. Refugees report that the Belarusian government has chartered planes to block them there.

I spoke with Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei to discuss the precarious humanitarian situation on the border with the EU. People’s lives must be protected and humanitarian agencies allowed access.

The current situation is unacceptable and must end. People should not be used as weapons. European Foreign Minister Josep Borrell posted on Twitter.

The European Union has criticized Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for “deliberately endangering the life and well-being of people and fueling the crisis at the EU’s external borders” and this Monday, the European Council announced new sanctions against Belarus. However, this is not the first time this has happened. Although on other occasions the term “hybrid attack” was not used, and no sanctions were imposed.

The delicate case of Morocco

When the President of the Polisario Front, Brahim Galhi, was treated in Spain for Covid-19, Morocco opted for an action similar to what is currently happening between Poland and Belarus. Around 8,000 people swam across Spain via Ceuta in just 48 hours and in the complete absence of Moroccan police. Then the European Union criticized the “blackmail” of Morocco and assured that no country can blackmail the EU, but did not announce sanctions against the African neighbor.

Read | Ceuta, European gateway to migration: Morocco’s weapon with its views on Western Sahara

It was not the first time that Morocco threatened to open the migration tap. In 2018, several experts warned against the use of migration by the Alaouite kingdom as a negotiating tool on issues such as migratory aid or fishing. Brussels announced that year that it was granting Morocco and Tunisia 55 million euros for “improving maritime border management, saving lives at sea and combating smugglers operating in the region”.

The Spanish newspaper El País published in April 2021 that, according to a confidential EU document, Morocco demanded more money from the Union in exchange for better management of migration flows by its North African neighbor. The Alaouite kingdom wants to catch up with Libya and Turkey on the migration table, according to the Spanish newspaper.

Turkey and the war in Syria

March 18 marks the fifth anniversary of the EU-Turkey migration agreement. A pact criticized by organizations such as Amnesty International, which considers that it led to failed policies which “led to tens of thousands of people being forced to stay on the Greek islands in inhumane conditions and endangering refugees by forcing them to stay in Turkey.

With this agreement, the European Union disbursed 3,000 million euros to Ankara for “specific projects”. But the thing did not stop there, the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, repeatedly threatened the EU “to open the borders”, thus Ankara responded to the refusal of the European Parliament to leave Turkey join the European Union. “When 50,000 immigrants arrived in the border town of Kapikule, you started moaning saying: what will we do if Turkey opens the border gates? If you go further, know that the border gates will be open,” threatened the Turkish leader.

Amnesty International asserts that “this agreement has been a stain on the human rights record of the EU and has shown its willingness to reach agreements to limit migration on the basis of mere reasons of political expediency and without regard account of the unavoidable human cost”.

The so-called Libyan Coast Guard

January 30, 2021 marks the first anniversary of the renewal of the migration agreement between Italy and Libya. A pact unanimously criticized by NGOs, but also by the Human Rights Committee of the Council of Europe. In exchange for the so-called Libyan Coast Guard intercepting immigrant boats and returning them to the North African country, Italy and the EU provide them with logistical and economic support.

The European Union has supported this agreement for at least three years, train the so-called Libyan Coast Guard in ports like Cadiz, Spain. A formation that did not prevent violent situations in the Mediterranean Sea, such as July 1, when the Guada Costas fired at a boat of people trying to reach a European port.

The poor conditions faced by migrants in Libyan detention centers mean that, on the high seas, boats try to evade the coastguards. NGOs working in the Mediterranean faced with panic situationsin full rescue when the rescued people think they will be brought back to Libyan soil, which often causes them to jump into the water.

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