Syrian airline suspends Belarus flights over migrant crisis
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syria’s private Cham Wings Airlines on Saturday suspended flights between Damascus and the Belarus capital of Minsk because of the “critical circumstances” along the Belarus-Poland border where thousands of migrants have been trying to cross into the European Union.
The company said most of its passengers to Minsk have been Syrian citizens and that it was difficult to differentiate between those traveling to Belarus as a final destination and others who are migrants.
“Cham Wings Airlines decided to suspend its flights to Minsk Airport as of Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021,” the company said.
Thousands of people from around the Middle East, many of them Iraqis and Syrians, have been trying to cross into the EU this year through a backdoor opened by non-EU member Belarus.
In recent months, Belarus began offering easy tourist visas to Iraqis, Syrians and others from the Middle East and Africa. This meant they could now reach the edge of Europe on comfortable flights to Belarus, then try to sneak into Poland, Lithuania or Latvia, all EU members.
The body of a Syrian man about 20 years old was found on Friday near a border village, Polish police said. Also Friday, Turkey stopped selling tickets to Iraqi, Syrian and Yemeni nationals wanting to fly to Belarus.
Thousands have attempted the journey since summer. That has led to increasingly tense standoffs recently on the Belarus border and scenes of desperate migrants huddled in forests amid freezing temperatures.