Researchers from Germany and Russia confirm that Belarusian authorities are behind migrant crisis
Russian center “Dosie” and the German edition Der Spiegel found out that Belarusian authorities really were at the origins of the migrant crisis and helped migrants from Iraq to get to Lithuania and other EU countries through a Belarusian state company.
According to researchers, “in response to deteriorating relations with Europe, the Belarusian authorities apparently decided to use the flow of migrants to blackmail European countries.” As a result, since May 2021, the number of regular flights from Iraq to Belarus began to grow dramatically. The airline Iraqi Airways, which flies from Baghdad to Minsk, increased flights from four to five per week and opened new flights from three Iraqi cities. In addition, Fly Baghdad began flying to Belarus.
According to the study, one of the firms coordinating the flow of illegal migrants was the state tourist company “Tsentrkurort,” a part of the Department of Presidential Affairs of Belarus. Thus, in early May, the company signed a cooperation agreement “to develop international tourism between the Arab world and the Republic of Belarus” with the Belarusian tourist company “Oskartur.” It is headed by Salah Muhaymen Al-Asadi.
Soon “Oskartour” began reporting to “Tsentrkurort” about contacts with the Fly Baghdad airline, which launched regular flights to Minsk a few weeks later. Oskartur also asked Tsentrkurort to help get visas for 51 Iraqi citizens. More than 200 visa applications for Iraqi citizens have been processed by Tsentrkurort. The purpose of the visit of almost all “tourists,” including children, was shown as “holding a hunting tour in the hunting farms” of the Minsk district facilities of the Belarusian Society of Hunters and Fishermen.
Some of the visa applications also listed hotels “Minsk” and “Belarus,” which were popular with Iraqi “travelers.” In groups dedicated to travel from Iraq to Europe via Belarus, some Iraqis write that they do not stay in hotels: they usually spend a couple of nights there and then drive to the “Beniakoni” border crossing and try to climb over the 1.5-meter fence on the Belarus-Lithuania border.
Also, “Tsentrkurort” signed a contract for transportation services with a Belarusian company, “Stroitur,” which offers bus rentals with drivers. At least three times, this firm invoiced “Tsentrkurort” for transportation services between Minsk and the airport. The same “Stroitur” booked rooms in the hotel “Yubileinaya” for six Iraqi citizens.
Almost all requests for visas for Iraqis mention two contacts from “Tsentrkurort” and “Oskartur. In a comment to Der Spiegel, an employee of “Tsentrkurort” said that the company has helped hundreds of Iraqi citizens obtain visas. Buses booked by “Tsentrkurort” were waiting for the “tourists” in the arrivals area and driving them to central Minsk hotels.
The involvement of “Tsentrkurort” was previously reported, including the investigations of Belsat.