Syrian company Cham Wings Airlines suspends flights to Minsk

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Private Syrian airline Cham Wings Airlines halted flights to Minsk on Saturday as hundreds of migrants, mostly from the Middle East, remained stranded at the Belarusian-Polish border.

“Due to the difficult situation at the Belarusian-Poland border and because most of the travelers on our flights to Minsk are Syrian citizens (…) we decided to stop our flights to Minsk” on Saturday, said the airline in a statement.

Cham Wings said he made the decision “because we cannot differentiate travelers from migrants”.

The announcement came hours after Polish police said the body of a young Syrian was found in a forest near the Polish-Belarusian border.

“The cause of death could not be determined at the scene,” police said, adding that a group of around 100 migrants attempted to cross the border overnight in the same area.

This is the right decision.

There is a humanitarian imperative to prevent people from falling prey to the smuggling instrumentalized by #Belarus.

This follows the wise decision of the Turkish Civil Aviation Authority and the assurances I have received from our partners in the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon. https://t.co/QVLlbR7qvq

– Margaritis Schinas (@MargSchinas) November 13, 2021 Thousands of migrants – mostly from the Middle East and including Kurds and Syrians – have crossed or attempted to cross the EU and NATO border since the summer.

The crisis escalated this week as larger groups of hundreds of migrants began arriving at the border and attempting to cross.

Poland refuses to allow them to cross, with the West accusing Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko of luring them to his country to send them to the border in revenge for the sanctions.

Repatriation

Iraq announced Friday that it was drawing up lists of its nationals stranded at the border who wish to be voluntarily repatriated.

Iraqi Airways suspended service between Baghdad and Minsk indefinitely in August, airline spokesman Hussein Jalil said.

In recent weeks, potential migrants have been forced to cross third countries, usually Turkey, to reach Belarus.

But on Friday, Turkey banned citizens of Syria, Iraq and Yemen from flying from its airports to Belarus due to the refugee crisis.

Cham Wings is the only Syrian airline to serve the Belarusian capital, Minsk.

The Syrian national carrier operates limited flights due to international sanctions imposed on the government in Damascus after the civil war started in 2011.

Some people from Iraq have traveled to Lebanon in recent weeks to try to catch flights from Beirut to Minsk, officials at the Lebanese capital airport said.

“About a month ago, we started blocking Iraqis from Iraq” who wanted to fly to Minsk, an official told AFP.

“They have electronic visas but we know they are illegal immigrants,” the official added on condition of anonymity.

(AFP)

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