Statement by the Delegation of Belarus on the situation at the border of the European Union12.11.2021
OSCE PERMANENT COUNCIL
11 NOVEMBER 2021
Statement by the Delegation of Belarus
at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council
on the situation at the border of the European Union
Response to the EU Statement on the situation at the border of the European Union
We thank the Russian Federation for its support.
We regret that the European Union and a number of other delegations have once again chosen a purely confrontational, deliberately demonizing rhetoric on a topic that should unite us. The OSCE documents on border security orient us precisely in this direction.
Over the past months, while criticizing Belarus, you have been constantly repeating mantras about the “instrumentalization of migration for political purposes”, about “government-sponsored illegal migration” and “hybrid threats” in this regard. Realise, at last, that these mantras do not protect borders.
Once again, Belarus categorically rejects the unfounded and unsubstantiated accusations by Western countries of the allegedly artificial creation of a migration crisis on the border with the EU.
Belarus has been and remains a responsible and reliable partner in combating illegal migration and protecting the border, and it continues to fulfil its existing international commitments.
Belarus's actions are by no means aimed at facilitating illegal migration to EU countries, as you are trying to portray here.
For example, in January-August 2021 more than 600 persons were detained in Belarus for violation of the State Border Law. 130 foreigners were detained for violation of the legislation on legal status. Eleven channels of illegal transit migration to the EU were stopped (which is 6.5 times more than in 2020), 15 organizers and accomplices were arrested and 14 criminal cases were launched.
In September and October this year, more than 30 travel agencies that systematically violated migration and visa legislation were barred from applying for tourist visas at Belarusian airports and foreign offices for citizens of migration-disadvantaged countries.
Since September 28 this year, foreign nationals from migration risk countries have been reoriented to obtain visas at Belarusian foreign offices in Egypt, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. This makes it possible to implement additional control measures when issuing visas before entry into the country.
As of October 19, the supply of tourist visas to citizens of Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo has been completely stopped. The mechanism of visa denial on the grounds stipulated by the Belarusian legislation is used actively. As of November 11, the number of visa refusals at the National Airport Minsk for the year 2021 is more than 511 (for the whole year 2020 – 154 refusals). About 300 foreigners arriving in Belarus were not allowed to enter the territory of Belarus on other grounds.
The visa-free entry and exit procedure via Minsk National Airport and airports of all regional centres of Belarus is extended to citizens of Egypt, Jordan, Iran, Pakistan, South Africa only if their passports contain valid multiple Schengen visas with a mark of entry into the territory of a Member State of the EU or a Schengen Area member state, as well as air tickets with confirmation of the date of departure.
In 2021, more than 400 foreigners applied for protection in Belarus, most of them from Africa, Iraq, Yemen and Iran. They were sent to facilities for temporary settlement and temporary accommodation of refugees. All these facilities in Belarus are practically full.
Over the past 10 months, 1,538 foreigners have been expelled from Belarus as part of the fight against illegal migration.
All of this shows the groundlessness of the statements about the “planned” actions of the Belarusian authorities in allegedly “instrumentalizing” illegal migration.
We confirm that the situation on the border between Belarus and the countries of the European Union remains extremely tense. The Belarusian side is open and transparent in its assessment. Those who are interested in the assessments and positions of the Belarusian side in practice rather than in words can find them in the public domain on the websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence and the State Border Committee of Belarus. I am not going to repeat them, I would only like to quote from the interview of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus to the BELTA news agency on 9 November:
“There are more than two thousand disadvantaged people on the border line, including women and children. It is this human, humanitarian component that is of the greatest importance right now. All of them are objectively from the disadvantaged countries, where the Western countries interfered, and they openly say that they do not consider the territory of Belarus as a place of their residence, they want to apply for protection to the EU. Instead, they are gassed, shot over the heads and military equipment with large calibre weapons is brought to the border”.
And further on: “The Belarusian side has repeatedly called on the European states to refuse to discriminate against refugees because of the way they have chosen to travel. Ignoring the situation on the part of the EU poses high humanitarian risks, first of all for the refugees.
Today's EU statement would not have looked so one-sided if it had attempted to assess the actions of the EU states in observing the rights of refugees and migrants, in urgently amending their domestic legislation in this regard, in introducing emergency regimes in the border areas that restrict media and public access.
It is telling that against this background Belarus is continuing constructive co-operation with the relevant international organizations dealing with migration issues — the UNHCR and the IOM. Assistance to refugees is provided through the Belarusian Red Cross Society, Belarusian NGOs and the Parliament.
However, it is with deep regret that we note that the European Union and its member countries, especially our neighbours, have abandoned constructive co-operation with Belarus.
In particular, the EU stopped financing an international technical assistance project for the construction of detention centres for irregular migrants in Belarus, which was envisaged by the Readmission Agreement and the Partnership for Mobility Declaration. Belarus has been deprived of the necessary resources and capacity to continue with the previous scope of work to address the overall problems of irregular migration. Together with the sanctions and restrictions, these actions by the EU have forced the Belarusian authorities to reorient the available resources towards the urgent tasks of socio-economic development of the state and society.
Since April of this year, Belarus has repeatedly approached the European Commission with a proposal to hold consultations on this technical assistance project and on co-operation in combating illegal migration in general. Unfortunately, the EU refuses to engage in this kind of dialogue and politicizes this problem by applying double standards in assessing the actions of its own member countries.
Today, Belarus once again reaffirms its willingness to resume co-operation with all interested countries and partners in order to discuss and seek ways to resolve existing problems and joint challenges, including illegal migration. A prerequisite for the resumption of such co-operation is the rejection of pressure, blackmail and threats. We sincerely hope that the arsenal of experienced Western diplomacy, apart from sanctions, still retains productive forms of normal, civilized diplomatic co-operation.
In conclusion, I should like to make a small remark about the language of our communication in the Permanent Council and the unwritten conventions that make such communication possible. With a persistence worthy of better adherence in the Permanent Council chamber, some delegations continue to refer to the Government of Belarus as the regime. Dear colleagues, the use of such backyard language by diplomats does not do you credit. The use of forms of address that clearly exceed the bounds of diplomatic propriety is not an indication of your strength and righteousness. Such forms of address are only an indication of your anger and impotence. Please think about this.