The RBC correspondent tracked the path of refugees from the Minsk airport to the Bruzgi border checkpoint, which formed a spontaneous camp of many thousands of immigrants from Iraq and Syria
How the migrants' journey begins
The journey of migrants from the Middle East seeking to enter the EU across Belarus starts at the Minsk airport. Even now, despite the height of the crisis at the border, they continue to arrive in dozens. Late in the evening of November 9, a RBC correspondent found a group of young Arabs with backpacks and suitcases in the arrival hall – as it turned out, they were waiting for other fellow countrymen who had arrived in the Belarusian capital. None of them spoke English, so the local guide explained for them. He introduced himself to RBC as a volunteer helping arriving guests to check into the hotel. He had a list of about 30 names. The young man refused to tell what structure he works for and where the group he accompanied came from, but did not hide that the purpose of his charges is – cross the border with Poland.
The volunteer guide did not specify how they would get there, but usually migrants from Minsk go to Grodno & mdash; the city closest to the Bruzgi border checkpoint. The corresponding crossing from the Polish side, called the Forge, was closed already on November 9, but this route is still the main one for aspirants to the EU.
To get to Grodno, people from the Middle East do not use public transport (this was also confirmed at the Minsk bus station) & mdash; private drivers and taxi drivers are at their service. The cost of a seat in a minibus or a car on the Minsk-Grodno route starts from $ 100 and can go up to $ 350 with great demand, the RBC correspondent was told that both the cabbies and their current clients were named. Usually, in relatively large groups, the leader speaks at least a little English, and in all other cases the telephone application-translator helps out.
Photo: Veronika Vishnyakova/RBC
According to the Polish authorities, now on the territory of Belarus there can be 12 – 15 thousand migrants, directly at the border – & mdash; about 4 thousand people. These figures were cited on November 9 on the air of Polish radio by the representative of the Polish special services Stanislav Zharyn.
Two camps near the border
From Grodno, by car or even on foot, along the sides of the M6 highway, migrants get to the checkpoint. Signal that it is close & mdash; gas station at a fork. It is just a stone's throw from the spontaneous camp, spread out in the neutral zone between Belarus and Poland.
On Wednesday, the usually busy M6 was almost empty & mdash; not a single migrant on foot; cars passed only once every few minutes. But taxis were on duty at the gas station and in the vicinity & mdash; their drivers were waiting for those who, due to the complication of the situation, decided to return to Minsk or Grodno.
The catch, as one of the interlocutors of RBC put it, on this day is a small & mdash; it's too quiet on the border. Some taxi drivers even asked, did not see the correspondent of migrants, & mdash; they say, “ it's boring without them. '' Most of the drivers are from neighboring Brest and Gomel, but there are also from Minsk. As one of the bored ones told RBC, informal contacts with border guards have already been established, and they usually warn if migrants leave the camp. RBC has no confirmation of this information from representatives of the State Border Committee.
Photo: Veronika Vishnyakova/RBC
Two more small migrant camps are located in the forest and next to a gas station. In the first Kurdish family from Iraq, whose bivouac was closest to the highway, at first they were quite aggressive towards the RBC correspondent who approached them. Three men, thinking that they were filmed, demanded to show their phone and passport. Convinced that their fears were in vain, they calmed down and allowed to see how they were living. Provided that they will not reveal their names and will not be removed.
There were ten people in total: three men, two women and five children of younger and middle age. They settled down around the fire, and there was a tent nearby. The migrants had no blankets or sleeping bags. Of things & mdash; only small backpacks and 1.5 liter bottles of water. According to the men, they are all from Iraqi Kurdistan (autonomous region of Iraq) and flew in the day before on a flight from Dubai. Visas were issued in their country through a Belarusian company, in the end they intend to cross the border with Poland and then get to Germany. In Belarus, they do not intend to stay, but they cannot reach the border yet – and mdash; local border guards with weapons and dogs obstruct.
A native of Iraq, Mohammad, whom the RBC correspondent met when leaving this bivouac, said that there are 40-45 people in the forest in total. They avoid communication, food and water are scarce. He himself has been in Belarus for twenty days and, unlike others, got to the country by land transport & mdash; hid in the back of a truck and drove from Turkey to Belarus for two days. From Minsk to Grodno, and then to the border, I walked. Like others, Mohammad dreams of getting to Germany, and he chose the Belarusian route, because many people are doing this now & mdash; not only Iraqis, but also Afghans. He does not intend to stay in this country & mdash; it's cold and expensive, but it's impossible to cross the border because of the strengthening of the outfits. “ We have to endure this in order to change our lives. Nobody came here because they lived a happy life, we need to be here in order to live a happy life later, '' & mdash; Mohammad concluded.
In the gas station camp, the grants, on the other hand, were ready and even wanted to talk. Three tents, about 20 people, including women and small children. As the two leaders of the group told RBC, they are also from Iraqi Kurdistan. We used the services of a Belarusian travel agency, which issued them visas for 15 days and purchased tickets for flights from Turkey. They paid $ 4,000 for everything. We spent the night in a hotel in Minsk, then went to the border, paying $ 300 for the trip. They have not yet been able to cross over to the other side, they blame the Belarusian border guards for this, believing that Poland would have been ready to accept them. Explain why & mdash; they couldn't. One of the Kurds had a family, including young children, who flew to Minsk even earlier and is now in a camp on the no-man's land. You can't get to them either. No food supplies, no money, no blankets or sleeping bags. They asked the RBC correspondent if someone could help them, meaning food and warm clothes.
Photo: Veronika Vishnyakova/RBC
On the way back, the RBC correspondent met the machine with Polish diplomatic numbers at another gas station. The diplomats sat at a table inside the gas station sipping brandy. They obviously did not expect the journalist to appear, and explained their presence in this place as “ rest. ''
What politicians say
On Wednesday, Acting German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the migration crisis by telephone with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Merkel emphasized that the use of migrants by the Belarusian regime for its political purposes & mdash; inhuman and completely unacceptable, and asked the Russian leader to influence Minsk, the Chancellor's department said in a statement. As the official representative of the FRG government Steffen Seibert explained, Merkel does not call directly the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, because since August last year the Belarusian side has not shown any interest in communication. With this in mind, Merkel called someone who would be heard in Minsk, Seibert explained. In response, the President of Russia proposed to establish a discussion of the problems that have arisen in direct contacts of representatives of the countries & mdash; members of the European Union with Minsk, the Kremlin press service reported.
On the afternoon of November 10, even before the conversation between the two leaders, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow had not been approached by “ neither Poles, nor Lithuanians, nor anyone else with a question regarding possible mediation or any other participation in these discussions. '' ;. “ They don't talk to anyone at all. They just enjoy their own 'coolness', making such thunderous statements, blaming Belarus, and at the same time Russia (as the 'country behind these events') '', “ mdash; Lavrov said. According to him, Minsk has repeatedly offered to hold consultations with the EU, immediately after the incident with the Ryanair aircraft. “ This categorically no one heard, '' & mdash; said the Russian minister.
After the forced landing of the Ryanair flight in Minsk and the removal of Roman Protasevich from him, the EU imposed sectoral sanctions against Belarus, after which Lukashenko said several times that because of the sanctions, his country no longer has the ability to stop migrants on their way to Europe.
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