Lukashenko threatening to flood Europe with refugees
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is threatening to flood the European Union with thousands more refugees currently residing in the country, in what is being considered by the EU as clear exploitation of the migrants and blackmail by Minsk.
The EU sees Lukashenko's policy as "the green light for the influx of refugees" into Europe, describing it as "official human trafficking".
Lukashenko adopted an "open-borders" policy this summer by allowing people stranded in the country's capital, Minsk, to move towards the 420 miles-long Lithuanian border.
Iraqi refugees are using Belarus as an entry point for Lithuania, an EU member state. Brussels says that about 2,700 migrants - mostly from Iraq - have crossed illegally into Lithuania from Belarus in recent months.
The EU in return has helped Lithuania, through financial aid, to secure its borders and sent personnel from the European border guard agency Frontex. The past few months have seen more than 4,000 migrants cross the Belarus border into Lithuania.
As a result, Lukashenko has allowed direct flights from Iraq to Belarus, and from there to EU borders.
These flights were taking off mainly from Iraq's Basra in the south, and the northern Kurdish cities of Sulaymaniya and Erbil.
Lukashenko is allegedly conducting flights to the Syrian capital Damascus also, to bring in more migrants with refugees given assurances that they can reach Germany via Poland from there.
Iraq announced on Friday that it had suspended all flights to Belarus in light of the crisis.
Polish Deputy Interior Minister Maciej Wasek has previously accused Minsk of leading a "hybrid war" against his country, which - along with Lithuania - is also feeling Lukashenko's open borders policy.
The EU recently has threatened to ratchet up sanctions that it has slapped on Belarus since last year over a crackdown on protests against a presidential election won by Lukashenko, which was widely dismissed as fraudulent.
The EU last month hit key sectors of the Belarusian economy after Minsk forced a European airliner to land - claiming a bomb was onboard - in order to arrest a dissident journalist.