International

Why Are Migrants in Belarus Heading to the E.U.?

Written by Tamarindo News

Karwan Jabbar, 30, has a job and a house in a village near the city of Suleimaniya, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. What he doesn’t feel he has is a future.

So Mr. Jabbar borrowed money and put up the family home as collateral to raise the $13,000 he said he needs to get his family to Belarus. From there, he plans to make his way into the European Union.

“We are living in a country with no future,” said Mr. Jabbar, who makes the equivalent of $400 a month working in a car battery factory. The money isn’t enough to make ends meet. And for the poor, he said, there is no dignity in life in Iraq.

Among the migrants flying by the thousands into Belarus, in hopes of then moving westward into the E.U., the largest group are Iraqi Kurds. Many others are Syrian.

Mr. Jabbar is planning his second attempt. He went to Turkey two years ago. But standing on the shore of the Aegean, contemplating a sea crossing to Greece, he thought about his then-pregnant wife and the danger, and changed his mind.

Now he, his wife and their two young children — a five-year-old and his almost two-year-old brother — plan to fly to Belarus as soon as his passport and visa are ready.

He said he would take work as a cleaner if needed, if he made it to Europe, “as long as it’s a job that people respect.”

Abdullah al-Yousef, 24, a Syrian from the city of Idlib, arrived in Minsk earlier this week on a flight from Lebanon.

“I’m getting ready to move toward the border tomorrow morning,” he said by phone. “I do not know what is waiting for me.”

Mr. al-Yousef has a friend who had arrived at the border before him in his fourth attempt to get to the E.U. He said his hotel in the Belarusian capital is full of people from other countries including Lebanon and Yemen, all waiting to cross.

Mr. al-Yousef, a stone mason, said his trip cost about $8,000. He was planning to take a taxi to the border and use a GPS to navigate across in a group with three others. If he makes it, he will try to send for his wife and children.

“I really hope I make it to Germany,” he said. “I want to start a new life.”

Sangar Khaleel contributed reporting from Suleimaniya, Iraq.

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