European pressure on airlines to transport refugees from the Middle East to Belarus, and thus help Belarusian dictator Lukashenko with new pawns in the confrontation with the European Union, bore its first fruits on Friday.
Turkish Airlines will no longer sell one-way tickets to Belarus to people from Iraq, Syria and Yemen at this time. The Belarusian company Belavia and Iraqi Airways also meet the wishes of the European Commission.
The European Commission said, on Thursday, that it is considering imposing new sanctions on Belarus and some airlines. Brussels is investigating whether it can blacklist companies that would contribute to the political and humanitarian crisis between the European Union and Belarus by moving refugees from the Middle East to Minsk. These people are dumped at the border with the European Union.
Turkish Airlines’ announcement followed a message from Turkey’s civil aviation authority, SHGM. “Due to the problem of illegal border crossings between the European Union and Belarus, it has been decided that residents of Iraq, Syria and Yemen who wish to travel to Belarus from a Turkish airport will not be allowed to purchase tickets indefinitely and Boarding. ”
Turkish Airlines flies about twenty times a week between Istanbul and Minsk. After the airports of Moscow, the Turkish airport is the most important flight linking it with the Belarusian capital.
The European Commission reacted positively to the Turkish decision on Friday. “This is the moment when the European Union depends on our friends and we are happy to see that we have so much,” Commissioner Margaritis Schinas said from the Lebanese capital, Beirut. Schinas travels across the Middle East to talk about the migration struggle with Belarus. The commission is also in talks with other Arab airlines, including Royal Air Maroc, Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad.
Keep passengers outside
Airlines are allowed to ban passengers, even if they have a valid ticket, says Pablo Mendes de Leon, professor of air and space law. „A company may refuse a passenger SafetyReasons, by invoking security or immigration rules. Anyone who repeatedly misbehaves during the flight will be blacklisted by the company.”
Mendez de Leon says it is more difficult to blacklist European airlines that help Lukashenko travel with refugees. “It is highly questionable whether the European Commission or EASA could impose political sanctions on airlines.” The European Union has blacklists of companies that suffer from a technical lack of safety, for example in relation to aircraft maintenance. “But when it comes to political-strategic matters or immigration, the member states are sovereign,” says Méndez de Leon. In aviation, bilateral treaties regulate traffic between countries.
Turkish Airlines, Belavia and Iraqi Airways have agreed not to bring more migrants to Minsk. But most flights to Belarus come from Russia. Seventy flights arrive from Moscow every week. It is not known how many refugees are traveling through Russia. National airline Aeroflot last week denied its involvement in transporting migrants from Iraq, Syria or Turkey to Belarus.
Mendes de Leon does not believe that Brussels will quickly blacklist Russian airline Aeroflot for political reasons. This will likely lead to reprisals against European airlines. If they were no longer allowed to fly over Siberia to Asia, it would cost them a lot of fuel and extra money.
Aviation and Immigration
According to Mendes de Leon, the fact that Lukashenko has transported migrants from the Middle East is not an isolated incident. The airline industry is increasingly facing immigration problems. This is a new development, even if each case is different.”
He refers, among other things, to an incident at Mallorca airport last week. There, an Air Arabia Maroc plane flying from Casablanca to Istanbul had to make an emergency landing because one of the passengers fell ill. Spanish police said the report turned out to be false, but 24 passengers managed to get off the plane during a layover in Mallorca. At least twelve Moroccan passengers are said to have escaped by ferry to Barcelona.
In January 2020, current affairs column news hour How Aruba Airlines cooperated in forcibly expelling two Cuban dissidents. At that time, the United Nations asked the Dutch government for clarification on the cooperation of the European community.
Migratiecrisis page 8
A version of this article also appeared in NRC Handelsblad on November 13, 2021
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of November 13, 2021
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