EU Commissioner Accuses Belarus of Using Migrants to Blackmail Europe

EU commissioner for Home Affairs Sweden's Ylva Johansson speaks during a press conference after her meeting with Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum at the EU headquarters in Brussels on June 9, 2021. (Photo by JOHN THYS / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JOHN THYS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
JOHN THYS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

European Commissioner Ylva Johansson has accused the Belarusian government of blackmailing the European Union and orchestrating mass migration across its border with the bloc.

EU Home Affairs and Migration Commissioner Ylva Johansson made the comments after the recent surge of migrants flowing into Lithuania from Belarus, a number which has reached over 1,600 in the last two months.

Ms Johansson blamed Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko for the wave of migrants, telling Finnish broadcaster YLE: “There is a lot of evidence that this is something orchestrated by Lukashenko, who is using migrants for political pressure.”

She added that there had been reports that the Belarusian authorities have driven migrants to the border and allowed them to cross without checks.

“The situation has worsened with each passing week, and it is completely unacceptable to use people in this way as I feel the Lukashenko regime does,” Johansson said and added: “The important thing now is that we try to put an end to the use of migrants for political blackmail purposes and to show that this is the EU’s external border.”

The surge of migrants comes after the EU placed sanctions on Belarus in June after it intercepted a RyanAir flight from Greece to Lithuania in May that had a Belarusian dissident on board as it was flying over Belarusian airspace.

The EU then blocked Belarusian airlines from flying into EU airspace.

The use of migrants in an attempt to blackmail the European Union has been used by the Turkish government of Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to great effect in recent years, as well.

Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to allow migrants to cross in large numbers and cancel the European Union’s migrant deal with Turkey, which has so far given the country billions of euros to aid the millions of Syrian asylum seekers living in the country and to stop the flow of migrants.

In late February of last year, Erdogan made good on his threats and opened the gates to migrants. His government, like the Belarusians, was accused of helping migrants cross the border and providing them transportation to the land border with Greece in the Evros region.

The Turkish government closed the border after the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus but has still managed to get the EU to agree to fund a further €3 billion (£2.5 billion/$3.6 billion) over the next few years.

The money will be spent on providing aid to Syrian refugees but will also, for the first time, go towards helping Turkey secure its own border.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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