Death of Iraqi Kurds in Belarus highlights the despair of migrants


BAGHDAD (AP) – When Gaylan Delir Ismael heard that other Iraqis were making their way to Europe on an easily obtainable tourist visa from Belarus, the 25-year-old from the Kurdistan region jumped at the chance. . Last month, he packed up in hopes of going to Germany to have a new life and get treatment for his chronic illnesses.

He never made it.

Gaylan’s body, in a black coffin wrapped in plastic, was returned to Irbil airport in northern Iraq on Sunday after he died in a dark and soggy forest near the Belarus border- Poland.

Britain is one of at least 11 people believed to have died in a border crisis that European Union officials blame on the dictatorship of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, accusing him of using migrants settled as a pawn to retaliate against Western sanctions. Belarus denies this, blaming Europe for denying them safe passage.

Thousands of people, mostly from the Middle East, have been trying to make the journey since Mr. Lukashenko announced in May that he would relax border controls against bound migrants. by the West. That move follows EU sanctions for his harsh crackdown on internal dissent.

That has led to tense stalemate on the Polish-Belarusian border in recent days. Polish police, military and border guards are denying entry to migrants, leaving thousands of them huddled in the forests of the Belarusian side amid freezing temperatures.

The circumstances of the border confrontation that led to Gaylan’s death are unknown, but his father, Delir Ismael Mahmoud, has blamed Poland, although the construction of a large security force there has not begun. until a few days after his death.

“Unfortunately, the Polish police – instead of helping them – they started deporting them and sending them across the border to Poland,” said Mr. Delir, who was stunned as he waited at the airport to pick up the body. his son.

Women dressed in black, including Gaylan’s mother, cried and muttered “God is great!” as his coffin was carried away, along with that of another Iraqi on the same flight, Kurdo Khalid, whose family said he died October 31 of a brain hemorrhage at the border.

“It is truly a sad tragedy. I urge the young people here not to migrate from Kurdistan,” said Bilal Khalid, who received his brother’s body at the airport.

The deaths underscored the despair of many young people in Iraq and Syria – both countries mired in conflict due to corruption and mismanagement – and the enormous risks they are willing to take to save lives. reach Western Europe. Many of them, like Gaylan, come from the relatively stable, oil-rich Kurdish region of northern Iraq, but there the combined rates, unemployment and pessimism are high.

Uncertainty, a bleak economic outlook and constant uncertainty have led many people to spend all their savings on a journey to Europe, hoping for a better life there.

Gaylan has suffered from health problems for most of his short life, being diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 9 and a meningococcal infection when he was 20. His father took him to Iran and Turkey for treatment, but his health did not improve. Gaylan was in his second year at university, studying business management but had to quit his job due to illness.

The family applied for visas to Germany and the Netherlands for medical treatment but were denied. He very much wants to go to Germany for treatment and continue his education there.

When the choice of Belarus appeared, he began plotting with his siblings how they would do it. Their father, who worked in real estate, covered the cost of all of them, which amounted to $35,000.

Gaylan and two brothers along with their sister, husband and 5-year-old son took a flight from Irbil to Dubai on October 14, arriving in the Belarusian capital Minsk two days later. From there, they made their way to the Polish border, where they were stranded, and Gaylan grew weaker from exhaustion and the cold, his family said.

It is not clear what happened on the night of October 28, amid confrontations between Polish police and migrants trying to cross the border. Gaylan’s sister was eventually hospitalized in Poland after she broke her leg and lost consciousness, while Gaylan and his two brothers were deported to the jungle side of Belarus, despite his deteriorating condition. Go.

Gaylan was separated from his nephew and brother-in-law, who were carrying insulin in his backpack. He and his brothers stayed at the border for another two days, repeatedly begging for help and injecting insulin, to no avail.

Gaylan died in his brother’s arms in the cold forest, while the other brother stood in shock.

“The last time I spoke to him was on the morning of his death. … I asked him how he felt. He said, “I am fine but a little tired.” Delir, who buried his son Monday in Irbil, said.

“I couldn’t believe that, even if they weren’t human, you would help them,” he added, referring to the Polish military. “Now that Gaylan’s body is coming back, I want Poland, Germany and international aid organizations to take care of the rest of the family and let them in.”

Officials in Warsaw have voiced concern about suffering on the border but stressed that Poland is the target of a new form of mixed war waged by Belarus and must block its border . Authorities say that if they start to let some people through, it will make the situation worse by encouraging others.

Delir understands the despair that led to his son’s death.

“If you ask me as a father, I don’t like or want my kids outside, but the dire economic situation here, lack of job opportunities and unemployment force me to say yes to them. migrate,” he added.


Karam reports from Beirut.

https://www.yourbasin.com/news/iraqi-kurds-death-in-belarus-underscores-migrants-despair/ | Death of Iraqi Kurds in Belarus highlights the despair of migrants


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