An airport in Russia which lies around 30 kilometers from the border with Estonia may be used in human trafficking efforts alongside those already underway on Belarus' borders with the European Union, German daily Die Welt reports on its website.
The article reported that not only is the Belarusian regime facilitating the migrants' reaching, and crossing, the European Frontier, but also that human traffickers operating in Germany and European states are also involved.
While Estonia does not border with Belarus, were the airport at Pskov (Estonian: Pihkva) to be used, this would open up a new route, the paper reported (link in German), as an alternative means of reaching the EU.
Migrants from countries such as Iraq who have been intercepted in Estonia, have so far been small in number. Such individuals had often crossed the border with Latvia – which itself borders with Belarus – and attempting to reach Finland or other parts of the EU.
Die Welt said that Belarusian citizens holding Polish Schengen visas, as well as Syrian nationals resident in the Netherlands, have been arrested as human traffickers in connection with the surge in numbers of illegal border crossings since summer and denounced as a form of hybrid warfare on the part of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.
The Belarusian national carrier, Belavia, whose flights are currently barred from Estonian airspace, makes regular flights up to seven times per week, between Istanbul and Turkey and carrying migrants of primarily middle eastern origin, while Fly Dubai operates daily flights between Dubai and Minsk, mostly carrying Iraqi and Syrian citizens, whose numbers are also rising, die Welt said.
A private Syrian airline is doing the same from Damascus, the paper said.
Iran, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Yemen were the other countries of origin of many of the migrants, which die Welt mentioned, while most of the people traffickers arrested had been attempting to enable migrants to reach Germany by rented car, via Poland.
The original Die Welt piece (in German) is here.
Foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets said Thursday that Estonia is redoubling efforts to keep the current crisis on the Belarus-EU border in the international limelight, including raising it at UN Security Council, where Estonia has a non-permanent seat.
Also on Thursday, defense minister Kalle Laanet (Reform) joined his Latvian and Lithuanian counterparts in highlighting the crisis and condemning the Lukashenko regime's deliberate escalation of an ongoing hybrid attack.
A new Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) unit was recently dispatched to Lithuania, to help out in border guard work in the southernmost Baltic State, and the fifth of its kind to do so since month-long rotations were first set up in the summer, when the surge in illegal migration began.
Editor: Andrew Whyte