Turkish Airlines bars Syrians, Iraqis, Yemenis from boarding Belarus flights amid migrant crisis

Turkish Airlines has banned Syrians, Iraqis and Yemenis from boarding flights to Belarus, amid accusations that it has been facilitating irregular migration to the European Union.

Duvar English

The Polish Presidency has announced that Turkish Airlines (THY) will not sell Minsk tickets to citizens of Iraq, Syria and Yemen starting on Nov. 12.

Jakub Kamoch, the head of the Polish Presidency International Politics Bureau, made the announcement on his Twitter account, saying that those with diplomatic passports will be exempt from this implementation.

Meanwhile, a THY official told Sputnik's Turkish service: “Our airline will accept on its Minks flights citizens of Iraq, Syria and Yemen who have only diplomatic passports and have a residence permit in Belarus.”

Turkey's Civil Aviation General Directorate (SHGM) also released a statement with regards to the issue on its Twitter account. 

"Due to the problem of illegal border crossings between the European Union and Belarus, it has been decided that the citizens of Iraq, Syria and Yemen who want to travel to Belarus from Turkish airports will not be allowed to buy tickets and boarding until further notice," the SHGM said.

The European Union's chairman, Charles Michel, thanked Turkey over the airliner's move. 

"Thank you to the Turkish authorities," Michel said on Twitter.

Poland and the EU earlier this week said that Turkish Airlines - which flies from Istanbul to Minsk - was turning a blind eye to the transit of migrants and refugees.

In return, Turkey said that it rejects efforts to "portray it as part of the problem" in the migrant crisis along the Poland-Belarus border.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu held a phone conversation with his Polish counterpart Zbigniew Rau on Nov. 10, saying that Turkey was being made part of a problem despite not being party to it.

In the phone call, Çavuşoğlu also invited technical teams from Poland to inspect operations at Istanbul Airport.

On Nov. 8, Polish authorities stepped up border protection and mobilized more than 12,000 troops after a large group of migrants started marching toward the country’s frontier with Belarus accompanied by the Belarusian military.