The political situation in recent months suggests that the Belarusian authorities, starting the “war” with the EU haven’t thought about the ways of stopping this confrontation. In the situation of critical vulnerability of the country to the influence of external political and economic factors, fast normalization of relations with the European Union is one of the key objectives of Belarusian foreign policy, even though the Belarusian authorities aren’t ready to acknowledge it. At the same time in order to strengthen its position in the possible negotiations with the West the official Minsk requires a kind of “trump card” — something that is really interesting and important for the EU. It seems like Belarusian authorities, being aware of the almost absence of Belarusian influence in the international arena and in the global economy, have decided to use the security sector, particularly the threat of illegal migration in the EU through Belarus.
After the statements about the reorientation of border policy towards more strict control over immigrants to Belarus than over people leaving the country, which has been obviously done at the instigation of the authorities, the national information field was filled with the information about the aggravation of the situation in terms of illegal immigration at the border of Belarus and the EU.
So, in June, the State Border Committee of Belarus (hereinafter referred to as SBC) announced the growth of migration activity: in the current year 21 illegal migrants were detained and 590 potential illegal migrants weren’t allowed to cross the border at the border between Belarus and Poland, and 20 and 630 people respectively – at the border between Belarus and Lithuania. The situation on the border between Belarus and Latvia was not reported about, but the number of immigrants detained is probably comparable.
At the same time this data should be given special attention. Firstly, it would be interesting to see the percentage rate of the countries of origin of illegal migrants (for example, how many percent of those detained at the border are citizens of the CIS and Georgia, with which Belarus has established a visa-free visit). For example, according to the Lithuanian experience, about 40% of illegals in this country are Georgians. Secondly, it’s necessary to find out what the Belarusian authorities by the phrase “illegal migrant”. It should be noted that the illegal migrant is not always a foreigner: according to the same Lithuanian experience over 40% of frontier intruders are their own citizens. Thirdly, it is not clear, what the SBC means by announcing the data on “potential illegal migrants, not allowed to cross the border”. Are the persons, to whom entry to Belarus has been denied, included in this definition, or does it mean only those who, who were not allowed to leave the country?
In general, any numbers should be considered in comparison with the past. Thus, the analysis of last year public data, it can be found out, that the number of illegal migrants detained at the border, has decreased by more than 2 times. Of course, one could argue that the Belarusian border guards have weakened the protection of borders and more illegal migrants successfully penetrated into the territory of the EU. However, it is unlikely that this problem, even if it is real, become extremely important for the authorities of neighboring countries. Otherwise, the reaction of the leaders of these states would have been immediate. Especially, there is no doubt that Warsaw would tolerate such situation, taking into account particularly the relations between Belarus and Poland.
If you consider the history, you can find out, that from the 90s to the mid first decade of the 21st century border services detained more than two thousands of illegal migrants at the border and about five thousand ones on the approaches to it, as well as about twenty thousand potential migrants (foreigners with forged, invalid documents, or the people who violated the rules of stay and transit) each year.
At this rate it is possible to dispute the effectiveness of the tactics chosen by the Belarusian authorities towards the EU. Besides the fact that nothing extraordinary happens at the border now, it is doubtful that the factor of migration threat to Europe can be important in the future. At least for the reason that the EU has sufficient resources and capabilities to “stop the gap” on its borders with Belarus.
It’s necessary to note that such a bad choice of “border topic” as a way to pressure the EU is a consequence of the general low level of managerial staff in the country. With regard to foreign policy issues it should be admitted that there’s no serious research of Europe by Belarusian analysts. For 21 years after the restoration of independence the national area studies school has not been created. The majority of Belarusian officials do not speak foreign languages and can’t get the information by foreign analysts. Responsible officials in the Belarusian authorities get the information about the situation abroad mostly of the media (mainly Russian), that tend to overestimate the problems and speculate on them.
As a result, continuing to play up the issue of weakening controls on the borders between Belarus and the EU can have bad consequences for Belarus, if potential migrants believe it and will get to Belarus in order to move to Europe after that. If necessary, the EU will increase the control at the borders quite fast, and the Belarusian authorities will face the prospect of turning Belarus into the “migration dump”.