Hundreds more migrants leave Belarus on Iraq-bound flight


FILE PHOTO: An Iraqi migrant, who voluntarily registered for an evacuation flight from Belarus, arrives at Erbil International Airport, in Erbil, Iraq, November 26, 2021. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari/File Photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) - More than 400 migrants who had travelled to Belarus seeking to cross the border into the EU flew home on Saturday on an Iraqi Airways plane bound for the city of Erbil in northern Iraq, Minsk's airport said.

The EU imposed sanctions https://www.reuters.com/markets/europe/us-restricts-dealings-belarusian-sovereign-debt-increases-sanctions-2021-12-02 on Belarus on Thursday after accusing it of flying in migrants, mostly from the Middle East, and pushing them to illegally cross the Polish border to manufacture a crisis, something Minsk denies.

Minsk airport authorities said in a statement a Boeing 747-400 would fly 415 adults and four children on Saturday to Erbil, the capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region. The airport's website later listed the flight as having departed.

Iraqis who fled seeking economic opportunity and in some cases political asylum began returning to their country last month having failed to get into the EU via a route that people smugglers promised them would work.

Russia, which supported Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's government during mass street protests last year, on Saturday criticised the new EU sanctions as illegal, and said the issue should be settled through dialogue.

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Gleb Stolyarov; Editing by Helen Popper)

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