Discourse on the establishment of centers for irregular migrants in Belarus
Information on the establishment of centers for irregular migrants in Belarus appeared on the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Belarus (MIA) on 17 January 2017. It was reported that the European Commission has decided to allocate to Belarus EUR 7 million for the implementation of the international technical assistance project to support the country in dealing with the increasing number of irregular migrants.
International technical assistance for the implementation of this project will be provided by the European Union through the Mission of IOM in Belarus. MIA will partner with the State Border Committee (SBC), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, UNHCR Representation in the Republic of Belarus, as well as some Belarusian NGOs providing assistance to the most vulnerable categories of migrants.
One of the areas of work under the project will be the establishment of temporary accommodation centers for foreign nationals. It is important to note that these are only foreigners in an irregular situation, those apprehended in the country, and there are no plans for accommodating Syrian or other refugees from the EU at the centers.
Irregular migrants will be detained in the centers during the necessary procedures related to the identification of a person and/or expulsion. Presently the MIA and the SBC do not have specialized facilities designed for detaining and working with such category of persons. The latter are placed in temporary detention facilities of territorial police departments and the SBC.
Apart from the establishment of the centers, the funds are intended for assisted voluntary return of foreigners from Belarus to the states of their national belonging, as well as for a number of other tasks.
Later on, the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus Dmitry Mironchik made a comment on the issue in connection with the statement of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that the agreement between Belarus and the European Union on the establishment of temporary accommodation centers “creates questions and the potential for abuse”.
Dmitry Mironchik expressed confidence that there is no reason for Russian partners to be concerned with the establishment in Belarus of the temporary migrant accommodation centers which will meet the most modern standards since Belarus is currently doing exactly the same what Russia did 10 years ago. Then, the International Organization for Migration and the European Union have implemented similar projects, under which, among other things, the Russian side received support from the IOM, with the EU’s funding, in “the establishment of the system of centers for accommodation of third-country nationals to be returned to the territory and from the territory of the Russian Federation in the framework of readmission agreements with European countries and third countries”.
Afterwards, President of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko commented on the subject of creation in Belarus of temporary migrant accommodation centers. He said that such centers should not contribute to the accumulation of irregular migrants in the country; that money should be allocated not only to the creation of such centers, but also for the further expulsion of detained migrants to their countries of origin. The President also announced a possibility of suspending the establishment process, if it turns out that there is a risk of accumulation of irregular migrants in the country.
EU Delegation to Belarus explained the content of the project providing for the establishment of centers of temporary accommodation for foreigners, interests and obligations of the parties - the EU and the Republic of Belarus, the role of the IOM.
To the question on whether it was true that only irregular migrants apprehended in Belarus will be placed to the migrant accommodation centers, and not Syrian or other refugees from the EU, the EU Delegation answered the following: “This is out of question that any refugees from the EU will be placed to the temporary accommodation centers for irregular migrants. Both already existing and future facilities are intended for accommodating persons who arrived in Belarus illegally, and, as already noted by the MIA of Belarus, they will be placed for a period of time required for identification of a person and subsequent expulsion or voluntary return to their countries of origin.
When the EU and Belarus sign a readmission agreement, Belarus will be also able to place to these centers those migrants who will arrive illegally to the EU territory from the territory of Belarus and will be returned to Belarus under this agreement. Likewise, persons who will illegally arrive in Belarus from the territory of the EU will also be subject to return to the EU (readmission). The essence of readmission is that each party assumes the obligation to take back to its territory those nationals who arrived illegally from its territory to the territory of the other party. Such agreements have been already in force for several years between the EU and Belarus's neighbors - Russia and Ukraine”.