hundreds more migrants leave Belarus on a flight to Iraq | World news

MOSCOW (Reuters) – More than 400 migrants who had traveled to Belarus in an attempt to cross the border to the EU returned home on Saturday on an Iraqi Airways plane to the town of Erbil, in northern Iraq, Minsk airport announced.

The EU imposed sanctions on Belarus on Thursday after having it accused of transporting migrants, mainly from the Middle East, and pushing them to cross the Polish border illegally to fabricate a crisis, which Minsk denies.

Minsk airport authorities said in a statement that a Boeing 747-400 would carry 415 adults and four children on Saturday to Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region. The airport’s website subsequently reported that the flight had taken off.

Iraqis who fled in search of economic opportunities and, in some cases, political asylum began returning to their country last month after failing to enter the EU via a route the smugglers had promised them to work.

Russia, which backed Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s government in mass protests last year, on Saturday criticized the new EU sanctions as illegal and said the issue should be settled through dialogue.

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(Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Gleb Stolyarov; Editing by Helen Popper)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

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