Baghdad: The Iraqi Foreign Ministry said that it has evacuated 617 migrants stranded in Belarus, most of whom are women, children and the elderly, amid the ongoing migrant crisis.
“The Ministry’s efforts are continuing to evacuate the migrants voluntarily, and 617 Iraqis are now returned, in coordination with Iraqi Airways, from the Belarusian capital Minsk,” spokesman Ahmed al-Sahaf told the official Iraqi News Agency on Thursday.
In an earlier statement, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi stressed the importance of taking all “necessary joint measures to preserve the security and safety of Iraqi citizens and work to avoid any Iraqis becoming a victim of human trafficking networks”, Xinhua news agency reported.
“The Iraqi government is working to bring back all stranded Iraqis voluntarily,” al-Kadhimi added.
In response to the crisis, the Foreign Ministry had announced earlier this month the suspension of direct flights to Belarus to protect Iraqi migrants from human trafficking gangs.
Since August, thousands of migrants, most of them from war-torn countries in the Middle East, were stranded at the border between Belarus and its neighbors, seeking to enter the EU territory.
However, more migrants arrived at the Belarusian side of the border with Poland earlier this month. Clashes broke out last week between Polish soldiers using water cannons and migrants throwing stones.
Similar tensions also occurred on Belarus’s borders with Latvia and Lithuania.