EU’s von der Leyen calls for new sanctions on Belarus over migrant influx

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Monday called on member states to impose new sanctions against Belarus, which she blamed for an influx of migrants at the Polish border.

The use "of migrants for political purposes is unacceptable", she said in a statement, adding that the EU would also look at how to sanction "third-country airlines" that bring migrants to Belarus.

"We will not hesitate to adopt sanctions if necessary against companies and countries that play into the hands of smugglers," EU diplomatic chief Josep Borrell warned in mid-October.

"The migrants are provided with visas, plane tickets and an aircraft is ready to transport them to Minsk from where they are taken to the borders of Lithuania, Latvia and Poland," he said.

Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas will visit "the main countries of origin and transit in the coming days to ensure that they act to prevent their own nationals from falling into the trap set by the Belarusian authorities," the statement said.

The EU has accused Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko of orchestrating a wave of migrants and refugees, mainly from the Middle East, in retaliation for sanctions imposed by Brussels for his regime's crackdown on the opposition.

Lukashenko denies the accusation.

Warsaw expressed concern on Monday about a possible armed attempt to cross its border from Belarus, where thousands of migrants are massed.

To stem the illegal migrant crossings from Belarus, the EU is preparing tougher economic sanctions against Minsk.

An initial round of sanctions imposed in June hit the key sectors of potash, oil and tobacco. EU sanctions also target 166 Belarusian regime officials, including Lukashenko and two of his sons.

Sanctions require unanimous approval from all 27 EU members.

(AFP)

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