EC seeks to blacklist operators transporting migrants to Belarus
The European Commission (EC) has suggested blacklisting transport operators that facilitate migrant smuggling or human trafficking into the EU, most recently through Belarus to Poland and other countries.
The EC's move came in reaction to an escalating migration crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border, in which migrants from the Middle East and Africa are lured into Belarus by the country's president, Alexander Lukashenko, under the false promise of easy access to the EU, and then encouraged or forced to cross into Poland illegally.
On Tuesday the EC said it would introduce "targeted measures against transport operators of any mode of transport - land, air, inland waterways and sea."
"Ordinary people are being sold a lie by the Belarusian regime working with international smuggling networks. What is happening at our borders is not a migration issue but a security one," said EC Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, quoted in an EC news release.
Schinas also said that "the blacklisting mechanism we are proposing today is a further tangible expression of our willingness to act decisively.
"This is a global problem and we must build an international coalition against the use of people as political pawns," he added.
Potential restrictions include curbing a carrier's operation on the EU market, suspension of licences or permits, suspension of fuelling or repair rights and a ban on air transit or overfly over EU territory as well as a ban on calling into EU ports.
Poland has been struggling to stem a wave of migrants from the Belarusian side of the border for several months now. However, in recent days illegal entry attempts have become much more organised and have involved large numbers of migrants, often aided by Belarusian uniformed services.
Poland, other EU members and the United States have accused the Belarusian regime of instigating the crisis in order to destabilise the EU.