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‘I will never go back to Iraq’: Iraqi Kurds flee to Belarus | Stories

Baghdad, Iraq The unforgivable cold that afflicts forests in the barren landscape along the Belarus-Poland border goes into the night and only deteriorates at sunrise.

Thousands of asylum seekers, mostly from the Middle East, have gathered in the jungles of the eastern EU.

Some have been there for weeks, struggling with the common cold and hunger while waiting in line to cross the border into Poland.

Shvan, who lives on the border with Poland, finds it extremely hard to stay warm in the heat of summer.

He tried to sleep in a tent he bought in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. When they come out, they are greeted by an event that is becoming a new trend.

Groups of people like him climb out of tents or into sleeping bags along the thorny wire fence that stretches as far as one can see.

“I do not know how long I will continue to do this, because this is a disgrace,” Shvan, a Kurdish man from Soran in Iraq, told Al Jazeera during a WhatsApp interview, asking to be identified by his first name. for fear of the consequences.

“We tell the Polish authorities that food and water are in short supply, but they do not care.

“They look at us like crazy,” Shvan sighed, his breath cool.

As Shvan hurried to collect firewood, he turned his camera on a family of four.

“Look – this man has to wrap his jacket around his daughter to keep her cool,” she said.

Shvan is one of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons who have left their homeland and embarked on a perilous journey to Europe.

They clung to the border, which was severely closed by journalists. With the onset of winter, human rights organizations have warned of an impending doom.

Most come from the Kurdish region of Iraq – the northernmost autonomous region.

Despite having little security compared to the Iraqi government, the Kurdish region has its drawbacks: corruption that has led to widespread unemployment, discrimination that has prevented many Kurdish people from getting better jobs and, according to Al Jazeera’s correspondents , “it is impossible. to live a good life.”

But those who have already started the trip have paid thousands of dollars to cover all expenses, including flights from Iraq to Belarus, hotel fees, and visa fees.

Dilsoz, a 27-year-old woman from Erbil, the capital of Kurdish, left her home with her husband in early October due to unemployment.

In exchange for a text message with Al Jazeera, Dilsoz said he paid around $ 7,000 to a travel agency in Erbil for a package that included a flight from Erbil to Istanbul, overnight at an Istanbul hotel and a ticket from Turkey to Belarus.

“It was easy when we left because the travel agency took care of everything,” Dilsoz said. “I had to ask my family and [my husband’s] family to help us with the money to buy this package, but I find it worthwhile because I would rather travel to Europe than stay at home and lose hope of life. ”

Shvan recounted a similar journey.

“I remember the joy of getting a word of reassurance from my mentor – I think my new life is about to begin,” she said.

When they reached the border between Belarus and Poland, the dream was shattered.

Poland’s border police have tightened its grip, put up barbed wire fences and deployed more troops.

Conflicts between refugees and the Polish border control occur almost daily.

Reports indicate that Belarus has attracted asylum seekers like Shvan and Dilsoz into the country for deportation. Belarussian police have been charged with felony criminal mischief for firing on a sculpture with a shotgun, according to The Criminal Code.

Many Westerners claim that Belarussian leader Alexander Lukashenko, in retaliation for EU sanctions on the 2020 general election, has been using refugees and refugees to punish the European Union and try to destabilize the world.

As the crisis continues, other transit countries – such as Turkey – and their luxury airlines have banned foreign nationals from flying to Belarus, including Syrians, Iraqis, and Yemenis, in a bid to reduce the crisis.

The tour agencies that have been dealing with Al Jazeera will also reschedule their tours so that travelers can pass through cities like Dubai to avoid the ban.

This east of the EU migration route is relatively new, compared to the dangerous sea voyage from Turkey to Greece or from North Africa to Italy and Spain.

Two maritime routes have seen asylum seekers die and have led to coastal control. The Belarusian visa-free visa system paved the way for a more attractive alternative.

At a cabinet meeting last week, the Iraqi government said it would provide $ 300,000 to “support Iraqi prisoners” and help them “return voluntarily”.

Iraq has announced it will provide return flights to anyone wishing to return, starting on Thursday.

“I will not return to Iraq,” Shvan said. “And I don’t think there’s anyone here who would want to go back to a life without hope.”

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