Belarus says around 7,000 migrants now in the country

Belarus on Thursday said that there were around 7,000 migrants in the ex-Soviet country, with around 2,000 of them camped on the border with EU member Poland.

Thousands of migrants, mainly from the Middle East, are camped around the border in what the West says is revenge for sanctions slapped on Belarusian strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko’s regime after its suppression of protests last year.

“The European Union is creating a humanitarian corridor for 2,000 refugees who are in the camp. We are taking on the responsibility of — as much as it is possible and if they wish — returning the 5,000 others to their homes,” Lukashenko’s spokeswoman Natalya Eismont said. 

She said German Chancellor Angela Merkel will negotiate with the EU on creating the humanitarian corridor to Germany.

There was no immediate reaction from Germany.

Lukashenko has rejected the accusations that he engineered the crisis and criticised the EU for not taking in the migrants.

This week he spoke twice by telephone with Merkel in his first call with a Western leader since last year.

On Wednesday, his office said that direct talks between Belarus and the EU are imminent as agreed in his conversations with Merkel.

Germany, however, has not confirmed direct talks.