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Saturday, December 4, 2021

Limping and cash-strapped Iraqis deported from Belarus face bleak prospects

ERBIL, Iraq. It was cold in Belarus, very cold, but at least it gave hope, albeit an illusory one.

Nazar Shamsaldin was one of thousands of Iraqis who have fled to this Eastern European country in recent months, hoping that it will become the starting point for a new life in the West, but only to become pawns in the geopolitical game.

But this weekend he returned to Iraq, sitting on the cold floor of a tiny unfinished concrete house just deported from Belarus. Nearby, a small boy, one of a dozen children huddled in the house, tried to warm his hands over the only, broken kerosene heater.

Mr. Shamsaldin, a laborer, and 35 of his relatives risked everything to travel to the West. Like many of the hundreds of other Iraqis deported last week, they are now mired in debt and despair.

Iraqis are at the epicenter of the crisis that erupted after Belarus relaxed visa regulations this summer, luring migrants but then pushing them across borders to punish the European Union for imposing sanctions on the autocratic Belarusian president.

Once in Belarus, many migrant families were thrown into deep forests without shelter, food and water, sometimes engaging in dangerous clashes when they tried to get to Poland, Lithuania or Latvia, all members of the European Union.

“A Belarusian policeman pointed a pistol at my head, so I had to return to Lithuania,” said Mr Shamsaldin, 24, who had three small children. “In Lithuania, the commandos pointed pistols at me and told me: ‘If you don’t come back, we will kill you.’

He got a message.

On Thursday, Mr. Shamsaldin returned with his family on an Iraqi Airlines flight, evacuating 431 migrants from Minsk, the capital of Belarus.

Several thousand more migrants remain in Belarus at the border. These are mainly Iraqi Kurds, such as Shamsaldin, as well as Iraqi Arabs, Syrians, Yemenis and even some Cubans. But as their usefulness to Belarus has diminished, penniless Iraqi migrants are now deported.

Most of them are injured. Some have lingering injuries.

“The Belarusians beat us with sticks, and the Lithuanians attacked us with sticks and stun guns,” said Dhyab Zaydan, a cousin of Mr. Shamsaldin. Zaydan, 30, had a large bandage on his leg, where he said he was beaten with night sticks. The photographs show that his entire side is painted in a deep purple color, which he attributed to electric shock.

Border attacks are widely reported.

“People are being beaten up and they are in distress,” said Safin Dizai, head of the foreign affairs department of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government. “We told these authorities that they should be treated humanely and, at least until this problem is resolved, they should be treated like normal people with some kind of shelter or some food.”

For many migrants, this was not the first attempt to leave. Mr Shamsaldin tried to travel to Germany, where he spent six months in 2015 before returning to Iraq to care for his ailing father.

“Germany is the only country where we have experienced human rights,” he said.

Mr. Shamsaldin said that after a two-day walk, he and his relatives were seized by the Belarusian police, pushed into the back of a military truck and taken to the Lithuanian border. There they were told to cross the fence.

But after the humanitarian organization and the cameras left, Lithuanian soldiers began using sticks and stun guns, Kurds say, trying to drive them back across the border.

Mr. Shamsaldin said that he reprimanded one Lithuanian officer, telling him: “You have destroyed our country, and now we are coming to you, and there is no humanity in you.”

It was about the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, but the Lithuanian was quick to make an amendment. “It was Poland,” he replied.

While Lithuania provided support during the occupation of the United States, Poland was part of the invasion force.

Mr. Shamsaldin said that sold his car to pay $ 11,000 for air tickets and visas for his wife and three children, which he said were issued by a Belarusian travel agency. According to him, after they got stuck in a forest in Belarus, a Belarusian soldier in civilian clothes demanded the last $ 3,000 from them to take them back to Minsk.

His cousins, most of whom earn $ 10 a day from construction, have borrowed tens of thousands of dollars and are now unable to pay rent. More than a dozen children are huddled in the only residential area of ​​the two-room house. No one goes to school, and their families are unable to pay about $ 20 a month per child.

On Thursday, another family deported from Belarus sat on the sidewalk outside an air terminal in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, stunned and silent and unable to even come up with a taxi fare to return to the IDP camp where they were. life. They were Yezidis, members of a religious minority, many of whom still languish in camps seven years after the Islamic State launched a genocidal campaign against them.

One of the Yezidis, 56-year-old Naam Halo, said that she, her son and daughter-in-law spent 24 nights in a deep forest, and every time they crossed the border, they were sent back to Belarus.

To raise the $ 20,000 needed for the trip, Ms. Kahlo said she borrowed money and sold her gold jewelry.

“We have nothing now,” she said.

In the middle-class area of ​​Erbil, Yadgar Hussein spoke about her own harrowing journey that led to the deportation from Poland three weeks earlier with her children. According to her, in October they crossed the sewage stream and walked through the forest for several days in freezing temperatures after the Belarusian police cut the fence at the border. But one day in Poland, a driver took them to a police checkpoint, where they were arrested, while her 19-year-old son and another migrant hid in the trunk of a car.

She said that she still could not sleep.

“The only thing I know is that my life is ruined,” said Ms. Hussein, who married at 14 and was widowed four years later when her husband stepped on a land mine. She is divorced from the father of three younger children.

Ms Hussein says she has not refused to leave Erbil again, possibly next time due to the dangerous sea crossing from Turkey to Greece.

“If I had money, I would go by sea tomorrow for my children,” she said. “Either you die or you get there. But nobody is being arrested. “

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
World Nation News is a digital news portal website. Which provides important and latest breaking news updates to our audience in an effective and efficient ways, like world’s top stories, entertainment, sports, technology and much more news.
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