Evidence of Belarus providing migrants tourist visas

Kamaran Mohammed watches a video of his family in a forest on Belarus' border with Poland.

The Iraqi father of three travelled to Minsk from Iraq last month on a tourist visa, but his intention was always to seek a better life for his family in Europe.

Days after arriving in Belarus' capital, they headed for the border where their ordeal began.

He describes how the Belarusian authorities helped them in a game of cat and mouse with the Polish authorities.

"The Belarusian police were saying you have to go. There is no chance for you to stay, you have to go. Each night they would divide us in groups and put us in their cars. Some nights we would go once, other nights twice. They would arrest us and forbid us to enter. They would push us back on the other side of the fence. Then the Belarusian police would take us in their cars and bring us back to the Polish border."

Mohammed is one of thousands of people provided with tourist visas with the help of travel agencies in the Middle East working with tour operators in Belarus.

Mohammed's account, which has not been independently verified by Reuters, adds fuel to the EU's accusation that Belarus is orchestrating the migrant crisis.

Belarus has repeatedly denied the accusation.

Poland and Lithuania have produced documents, seen by Reuters, that they say show at least one Belarusian state-owned travel company made it easy for would-be migrants to visit from May.

At the same time, a state carrier more than doubled flights on a route popular with asylum seekers.

Hazhar Hoshyar is the deputy director of Azmar Air and travel company, which provides airport services in Iraq.

"We see the Belarusian visa on the passport, or there is an invitation (that allowed you to get a visa on arrival). But we can't prevent people. Because they say he is going to Dubai, and he has a visa for Dubai."

Mohammed and his family eventually made it to Poland, but their stay was brief.

On October 31st, they were deported back to their home in Northern Iraq.

Their story is a reminder that spending thousands of dollars and risking lives are no guarantee of a better future in Europe.

On Monday, the EU said it would impose sanctions on airlines that fly migrants into Belarus, as part of a package of new measures against the country.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting