In 2021, Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko threatened to “flood” the EU with migrants from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Some described the ensuing influx of people across Belarus’s borders as an act of “hybrid warfare”.

Now, a new migration crisis is brewing on the country’s frontiers with the European Union. This time, it is endorsed by Russia. And for the facilitators of this movement of people, it’s a booming business.

As the stream of illegal migration from Belarus to the EU gains new momentum, the Belarusian Investigative Center (BIC) has led an investigation looking back at the roots of the crisis in 2021 to see who’s profiting in 2023. 

Journalists from BIC teamed up with reporters from Siena, a Lithuanian investigative news outlet, Re:Baltica, a Latvian-based investigative organisation, and Fundacja Reporterow in Poland to reveal the hand of Belarusian authorities in orchestrating the migrant crisis.

The team identified 12 companies to which Minsk gave exclusive permission to issue permits allowing citizens of Middle Eastern countries to come to Belarus. Five are registered in the name of former employees of the authorities or relatives of the security forces and people close to them.

In all, seven companies are linked to individuals in Middle Eastern countries who are suspected of providing logistics for the flow of people to Belarus and beyond.

The journalists discovered that one person was arrested in Poland in 2011 for organising illegal migration into the EU while serving as a Belarusian border guard. According to the Polish prosecutor, Aliaksandr Payukou confessed to making €5,000 to €6,000 from every migrant smuggled across the border. (He kept up to 15 percent for himself and paid a kickback to his superiors.)

Payukou has not been tried in Belarus for organising illegal migration. On the contrary, he continued serving until 2021, the investigation revealed. At one point, he held three passports under different names. In 2021, Minsk appointed his company as one of the firms with a monopoly to invite visitors from Syria.

The journalists documented a new wave of migration from Belarus to Europe in the spring of 2023. Now, undocumented migrants travel to Belarus not directly from their countries but via Russia.

The reporters investigated and infiltrated the current international migrant smuggling scheme from Belarus to Europe. It involves hundreds of carriers moving migrants from Lithuania, Latvia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Poland to Germany. The scheme itself can generate up to $10 million a month for its organisers.

See the stories below.

Published stories

web: KontraBit