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Another flight from Baghdad arrives in Minsk with over 100 people
Passengers on the Baghdad-Minsk flight / Euroradio
On June 17, Euroradio journalists once again went to Minsk airport to watch a flight from Iraq. The Lithuanian Border Guard Service suspects a connection between the Baghdad-Minsk flight and the flow of Iraqi migrants, which has increased many times over the past month.
We had already been to the airport the day before: we observed an Iraqi Airways flight that brought at least 120 people to Minsk. The next morning, Lithuanian border guards reported that they had stopped six more refugees who had illegally entered the European Union through the Belarusian-Lithuanian border.
This time we saw the flight of the 'Fly Baghdad' airline. Its Boeing 737-800 seats 110 to 210 passengers. Are there those who, waiting for darkness, will storm the border of Belarus and the European Union?
"No photos, I have a family"
Closer to the flight arrival, four people appeared in front of the gate where the passengers came out. A girl in a red skirt was holding a list. We saw similar papers the day before with the representatives of the 'Oscar Tour' operator, who told us they were receiving a group of Iraqi "doctors and pharmacists" at the Minsk airport.
The four talked about 50 guests from Baghdad. They spoke about hotels like "Minsk," "Renaissance," "Crowne Plaza," "Belarus" - these are far from the cheapest Minsk hotels. Twenty-five people have a "program." Someone will stay at the hotel for one night only.
We ask: "Are you from a tour company?" They said yes. When we asked them to tell us who they were meeting and why the people say no: "Are you talking about illegal immigrants? You can find here, but we'll not comment"," said a woman from the company. Nor did they specify the name of the company. Later, they asked us whether journalists would be there the next day to observe another flight from Baghdad.
We notice another foreigner with a list of some kind. He said he was waiting for a friend.
After the flight arrived, most of the passengers approached people who called themselves travel agents. Later they also came to the man who was "meeting a friend." It looked like the friend did not fly in alone.
While we saw only men among the Baghdad - Minsk flight passengers, which arrived on June 16, on June 17, women came out of the arrivals area, too. But not many.
When about 20 passengers managed to get out, one of the travel agency representatives approached the reporter. Judging by his appearance and accent, he was a foreigner. He demanded not to be photographed:
"Show me the pictures. Why are you taking my picture?"
The arguments that nothing illegal was going on did not work. Only when we showed him that the man was not in the frame, he calmed down and said:
"Don't take pictures, please. I have a family, a wife."
"I'm there all the time, like a filter"
Then the Honorary Consul of Belarus in Baghdad, Majid Al-Qaissi, appeared from somewhere. He, too, was not very happy that the flight was observed by journalists at the airport. We explained why we had come.
"You should talk to the firms that make the invitations. We, Fly Baghdad, didn't let one Kurd. I'm there all the time, like a filter. They wouldn't let him in because I know he's illegal. We don't invite Kurds. I don't know who invites Kurds here. I love Belarus. I've been here for 21 years. I have five children, all boys, citizens of Belarus. I protect my children," says Majid Al-Qaissi.
Majid Al-Qaissi moved to Belarus 20 years ago. Judging by the interviews he gave to state media, the Honorary Consul of Belarus in Baghdad is an ardent supporter of Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
The man left, but we agreed to talk again. The Honorary Consul called someone and seemed to retell the story of his meeting and conversation with us. Then he came over to forbid us to take pictures. And again, to urge us to delete the existing photos.
We said that we were in a public place where you can take pictures.
"I'll answer all the questions. If you film, there will be problems," Majid Al-Qaissi said and disappeared again.
While we were waiting for the Honorary Consul, we noticed that even an hour after the flight's arrival, some foreigners were still hanging out in the arrivals area. It is unclear whether they approached the people with the lists while we were talking to Majid Al-Qaissi.
Meanwhile, two suspicious men sat down with the journalists. One took a chair very close to them despite the signs telling them to keep their distance on the backs. The other stood further away - and moved so that he could see where the journalists were. We decided to leave without waiting for the Honorary Consul to be available again.