The European Union on Monday agreed to broaden the scope of sanctions that can be applied to Belarus to include people and businesses which facilitate illegal crossing of the EU's external borders.
The European Council amended its sanctions regime to be able to respond to the "instrumentalization of human beings carried out by the Belarus regime for political purposes", it said in a statement.
Josep Borrell, high representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said: "Today's decision reflects the determination by the European Union to stand up to the instrumentalization of migrants for political purposes. We are pushing back on this inhuman and illegal practice. At the same time, we continue to underline the unacceptable ongoing repression by the regime against its own population at home, and we will respond accordingly."
So far, 166 individuals and 15 entities have been affected by EU sanctions.
Estonia, the Baltics and Poland have all called for further sanctions on officials in Minsk to counteract what they see as a "hybrid" attack on the EU's borders after thousands of migrants tried to cross Belarus' borders into Europe.
In a statement after the meeting, Estonia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) said the broadening of sanctions will allow the EU to act quicker in the future.
"Next we must enforce these sanctions as soon as possible to help initiate a dialogue to end the confrontation," Liimets said.
She also expressed Estonia's continued solidarity with Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.
"We have consistently used all diplomatic tools to end the hybrid attack and reduce migratory pressure, and we are ready to support Poland, Latvia and Lithuania in any way they need," Liimets said.
As the pressure on #EU external borders increases, we must act swift & united. Very glad that FMs agreed at #FAC on #EU broadening scope for sanctions & showed clear readiness to adopt the 5th round of sanctions to tackle instrumentalisation of migration. https://t.co/q15xoPTsh5— Eva-Maria Liimets (@eliimets) November 15, 2021
Editor's note: This article has been updated to add a quote from Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets
Editor: Helen Wright