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Top EU official in Turkey to discuss Belarus migration crisis

European Commission Vice President Margaritas Schinas said Turkey shares the goal of stopping smuggling networks. Turkish Airlines has been accused of fueling the migrant crisis at the Belarus-Poland border.
Iraq migrants

A European Union leader is in Turkey to address the crisis on the Belarus-Poland border. 

European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas arrived in Ankara yesterday, and continued holding meets today. The European Commission is the EU’s executive body. Schinas called migration a “joint priority” following a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. 

“In focus: halting the abuse of migrants by smuggling networks and the blatant instrumentalisation of people  - a shared objective of the EU and Turkey,” Schinas tweeted Thursday. 

Cavusoglu added that the two discussed migration in Belarus specifically, according a tweet. 

Thousands of migrants, many from the Middle East, are stuck at the Belarus-Poland border. They were able to obtain permission to enter Belarus relatively easily, but have been rejected by Polish border authorities. They want to enter Poland so they can be in the EU, which Belarus is not a member of. The EU has accused Belarus of pushing the migrants to their territory in retaliation for EU sanctions, though Belarus has denied this. 

A particularly high number of Kurds, Yazidis and others from Iraq have made the journey. Around 400 subsequently returned home from the freezing border on a repatriation flight yesterday. 

Schinas additionally discussed “stronger migration and security cooperation” with Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu today, also according to Schinas’ Twitter. He was also scheduled to meet with Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay, Turkey’s official Anadolu Agency reported

It is unclear what action, if any, will come out of the EU-Turkey meetings on the issue. The EU slapped new sanctions on Belarus earlier this week in response to the border crisis.

Turkey has also been implicated in the crisis. Last week, Turkish Airlines denied it was fueling the crisis. Some of the migrants have flown to Belarus via Turkey’s flagship airline. Turkish Airlines subsequently restricted flights to the Belarusian capital Minsk.