Hundreds of Iraqis, most of them Kurds, returned home last week voluntarily by plane from Belarus, where thousands of migrants and refugees have gathered at the border, hoping to enter the EU. There they have been sitting in icy temperatures.
Ahmed al-Saha, a spokesman for the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, said 617 were to be taken home. The first plane landed in Arbil, the Kurdish capital, after midnight, the news agency AFP is informed.
Dreamed of a new life
A total of 431 Iraqis were flown home from Belarus on November 18, and several were dissatisfied. Many of them said that they had used savings, sold valuables and also taken out loans to get out of financial disability in Iraq and start a new life in the EU. They did not get that far.
The West accuses Belarus of having lured people with false promises that it could enter neighboring Poland and Lithuania, both of which are members of the EU. Belarus rejects the accusations and criticizes the EU for not accepting the migrants.
At least 13 died
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), at least 13 people have died in the border area.
HRW accuses Polish border police of forcing migrants out of the country, sometimes with violence, even though they are asking for asylum. On the Belarusian side, the migrants allegedly have to endure violence, inhuman and degrading treatment by the border police.
“Although Belarus constructed this situation, regardless of the human consequences, Poland shares responsibility for the violent suffering in the border area,” said Lydia Gall, who works for HRW in Europe and Central Asia, in a report this week.