- Title: EU to tighten visa rules for Belarus officials over migrants
- Date: 29th September 2021
- Summary: LATVIA-BELARUS BORDER (FILE - AUGUST 11, 2021) (REUTERS) BORDER GUARD STANDING BY LATVIAN AND BELARUSIAN BORDER MARKERS GROUP OF MIGRANTS ON BELARUSIAN SIDE OF BORDER/ LATVIAN BORDER GUARDS IN FOREGROUND GROUP OF MIGRANTS SITTING AMONG BUSHES ON BELARUSIAN SIDE OF BORDER / CHILDREN SHOUTING MIGRANTS SITTING ON BELARUSIAN SIDE OF BORDER VARIOUS OF LATVIAN BORDER GUARDS STANDING ON ROAD
- Embargoed: 13th October 2021 11:49
- Keywords: Belarus Belarusian EU European Commission European Union Johnasson Latvia Lithuania Lukashenko Minsk Poland human rights abuse migrant migration migration commissioner visa rules
- Location: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM / NEAR NOMIKI, POLAND / LATVIA-BELARUS BORDER
- City: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM / NEAR NOMIKI, POLAND / LATVIA-BELARUS BORDER
- Country: Belgium
- Topics: European Union,Europe,Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA001EWRWG1Z
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: The European Union will tighten visa rules for Belarusian state officials, the European Commission said on Wednesday (September 29), in retaliation for what it called Minsk's aggressive effort to destabilise the bloc by pushing in irregular migrants.
"We will not punish the Belarusian people for their government's actions. Instead, the suspension is targeted and will affect government officials and holders of diplomatic passports," Commissioner Margaritis Schinas told a news conference.
The EU accuses President Alexander Lukashenko of orchestrating a sharp rise in migrant arrivals across the Belarus border with bloc members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.
The increase happened after the 27-nation union slapped sanctions on Minsk over human rights abuses and an election widely deemed rigged.
"He is really desperate and he's trying to destabilize the European Union by bringing in migrants and facilitating them and pushing them into the European Union," Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told journalists.
She added Belarus "tricked" migrants by luring into the country by giving them the hope they could enter the European Union from there.
"When they are not let in the European Union ... then they're being trapped there and they are not allowed to go back," she said.
Johansson made the comments as part of an update on stalled efforts to agree a new EU migration system to replace the one that failed amid a 2015-16 spike in Mediterranean immigration.
The EU and Belarus enacted a new visa facilitation deal in July last year to ease procedures and reduce costs for Belarusians willing to visit the bloc briefly.
But Minsk has since withdrawn from its linked EU readmission agreement, which establishes cooperation on sending away people who stay in the bloc without the formal right to do so.
That came as the EU sanctioned Belarus over a disputed election last August and a crackdown on protests after Lukashenko claimed victory and extended his 26-year-long rule.
(Production: Clement Rossignol)
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