Statement by Vice-President Schinas in Lebanon to address the situation at the Poland-Belarus border

Beirut is the second stop in a series of visits I am making to engage with partner countries which are key in helping the European Union to put a stop to the unscrupulous instrumentalisation and weaponsiation of people by the Lukashenko regime.

Change is happening. I was in Dubai yesterday where I was impressed by the commitment of authorities of the United Arab Emirates to work with us to put an end to these practices.

I would like to salute publicly the decision by the Turkish Civil Aviation authorities that announced a couple hours ago their decision to also limit these type of operations.

And I got assurances from my interlocutors here in Lebanon that Lebanon is also ready to work with us in that respect.

We must build an international coalition against the use of people as political pawns.

Let me be very clear about what is happening: people are being sold a lie by smugglers, international smuggling networks, who fly them to Minsk and create the impression they will ensure safe passage to Europe. This is happening via partner countries and regional hubs and this will not be allowed to continue.

The EU has already enacted a series of sanctions against the Belarusian regime and we’ll be reinforcing those with a fifth package that will come into force next week.

And we are working side by side with the United States and others on this as well, so that these sanctions are effective as of December.

When it comes to the European Union, we are working with partners in the region to make sure they understand and contribute to our efforts. I want to thank all of them for openness and constructive spirit. We are also engaging in talks with air carrier from third countries that are involved in these operations and I think our efforts are now bearing dividends.

As President von der Leyen said, we have powerful means, tools and instruments at our disposal to act. We have a very effective toolbox. I am confident we will not be forced to use it, as I was saying earlier, change is already happening.

I want to take the opportunity to thank Lebanon and the authorities for the significant efforts already undertaken to help us in limiting flights and their overall commitment in the joint management of refugee challenges in the region.

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