Is EU failing migrants, asks Minsk

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Demonstrators from Bezmer, a town in Belarus’s east, protest against President Alexander Lukashenko’s tight grip on power

Belarus has welcomed over 100 migrants from Turkey, and vowed to continue its work in the troubled region, according to its foreign minister.

Viktor Martynenko told the UN Security Council that his country would not turn a blind eye to migrants who try to reach Europe.

“Serious problems facing our neighbourhood require that we offer a helping hand,” he said.

He said Europe and the UN had failed to tackle the migrant problem.

The authorities “want to build their future on the foundation of our life and our history” according to the BBC’s Tom Esslemont in Geneva.

However, the revelation of the exact number of migrants coming from Turkey is a public relations success for the authorities.

Migrant numbers

Our correspondent says it is significant that the foreign minister made it clear the numbers were fewer than first thought.

The figure he gave was “over a 100 people, no more and no less,” he said.

BBC correspondent Fabrizio Bensch says the foreign minister didn’t want to put a figure on the number of migrants coming from Ukraine.

More broadly, Viktor Martynenko suggested that the lack of communication between European countries has contributed to the rise of Islamic State.

He described the European Union as a “close family of nations… [with] common values and interests.”

After Brexit, Belarus is set to become the fourth biggest power in the alliance after Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

Image copyright AFP Image caption The country’s border guards have been filmed detaining Syrian migrants on the Syria-Turkey border

Critics say President Alexander Lukashenko’s high-handed policies are holding back the reforms that would help revive his ailing economy.

He is under growing pressure to relax a strict media and press crackdown.

International human rights groups such as Amnesty International and the UN have accused Mr Lukashenko of abuses.

Those charges are denied by the government which says that reforms could drive Belarus into turmoil.

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