Lukashenko offers migrants staying at the border food, clothing

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On Friday, the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, promised food and warm clothes to migrants who choose to stay on the border between the former Soviet nation and Poland and will not return to their homeland.

Lukashenko made the promise during a visit to a facility that receives migrants at the border.

“My job is to help you, people in need,” Lukashenko said, addressing thousands of migrants during a visit to a facility that receives migrants in the Bruzgi depot. “We, the Belarusians, myself included, will do whatever you want, even if it’s bad for Poles, Latvians and anyone else.”

“We will work with you on your dream,” Lukashenko added.

Lukashenko’s visit comes after weeks of tensions at the border, where hundreds of people are still trapped. Since November 8, a large group of people, mostly from the Middle East, have been stranded in Belarus at a border crossing with Poland, trapped when forces from the two countries meet. Most flee from conflicts or a sense of hopelessness at home and aim to reach Germany or other Western European countries.

Mr Lukashenko once again called on Germany to accept migrants.

On Friday, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert vehemently denied Mr Lukashenko’s allegations that Germany had agreed to accept 2,000 migrants currently in Belarus.

“It is not true that Germany agrees with this,” he told reporters in Berlin.

Videos and photographs taken by local media show the authoritarian leader of Belarus investigating the conditions in the migrants’ cramped neighborhoods. Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported that crowds of migrants applauded Lukashenko on his arrival.

Mr Lukashenko said that in addition to some 2,000 people at the border, there are still 2,000 to 3,000 more migrants left in Belarus. He promised migrants that the Belarusian authorities would help them return to their home countries – but only if they wanted to.

“In no case will we detain you, tie your hands, load you on planes and send you home if you do not want to,” Lukashenko said.

Mr Lukashenko said some 200 migrants were still trying to enter the EU illegally every day.

More than 170 people returned to Iraq’s northern Kurdish-controlled region on Friday with another return flight expected later in the day. Last week, 430 Iraqis returned home after a failed attempt to reach the European Union.

The Western world has accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of attracting thousands of migrants to Belarus with the promise of help to reach Western Europe to use them as bridges to destabilize the 27-nation European Union in retaliation for its sanctions against his authoritarian government. Belarus denies having developed the crisis.

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