Iraq’s Foreign Ministry said it will organise trips to bring back citizens who wish to return home from the Belarus-Poland border, and halted all direct flights into Belarus.

Hundreds of migrants and asylum-seekers have been stuck for days on the Belarus-Poland border in near freezing temperatures.
Hundreds of migrants and asylum-seekers have been stuck for days on the Belarus-Poland border in near freezing temperatures. (Ramil NASIBULIN / AFP)

Iraq said it was drawing up lists of those among the hundreds of Iraqis blocked on the border between Belarus and Poland who wish to be repatriated voluntarily.

"We are ready to organise more than one trip to provide an urgent response to anyone wanting to come home voluntarily," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mohammed al Sahaf said on Friday.

Iraq has sent diplomats from Moscow and Warsaw to the border to "check on (the migrants') safety and communicate with the relevant authorities," Sahaf said.

The Belarusian diplomatic missions in Baghdad and the city of Erbil, which had been providing Iraqis with tourist visas, were "temporarily closed" last week, he added.

In the meantime, the Iraqi state News Agency reported that Iraq's Foreign Ministry had halted direct flights to Belarus from Iraq, in a bid to protect Iraqis against human trafficking gangs.

"The Iraqi embassy in Moscow and Warsaw coordinate Iraq's efforts for the voluntary return of those who are stranded at the Belarus border," the agency quoted the ministry spokesperson as saying.

"Iraq has stopped direct flights between Iraq and Belarus," he added.

READ MORE: Who are the Iraqis at the center of the EU-Belarus refugee dispute?

Suspended flights

In recent weeks, would-be migrants have been forced to fly through third countries, usually Turkey, to reach Belarus.

But on Friday, Turkey banned citizens of Syria, Iraq and Yemen from flying from Turkish airports to Belarus due to the refugee crisis at the former Soviet country's border with Poland.

The announcement followed an urgent round of diplomatic contacts between Polish, Turkish and European officials aimed at stemming the flow of people trying to illegally cross the European Union's eastern frontier.

European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas is to travel to Baghdad on Monday for talks on the crisis.

Hundreds of migrants and asylum-seekers, many of them Kurds from Iraq, have been stuck for days on the Belarus-Poland border in near-freezing temperatures, with the Word Health Organization saying on Friday it was "very concerned" about their plight.

Poland is refusing to allow them to cross, with the West accusing Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of bringing them into the country to send over the border in revenge for sanctions.

READ MORE: Turkey halts flights to Belarus for some Mideast citizens

Source: TRTWorld and agencies