Iraq estimates 571 citizens are stuck on the Poland-Belarus border and will take those who are ready to return “voluntarily” amid a standoff between the EU and US on one side and Belarus and Russia on the other.

Several Iraqis have told that a lack of economic prospects and security instability were behind their desire to leave Iraq and head for Europe. (AFP)

Iraq has said it was organising a repatriation flight for its citizens stuck on the Poland-Belarus border on a “voluntary” basis.

Iraqi foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed al Sahaf made the announcement on Iraqi television overnight Sunday to Monday.

“Iraq will carry out a first flight for those who wish to return voluntarily on the 18th” of November from Belarus, he said.

The spokesman did not say how many people would be able to board the Minsk-Baghdad flight.

However, he did say Iraq recorded 571 of its citizens stuck on the border who have said they are ready to return “voluntarily”.

Several Iraqis have told AFP that a lack of economic prospects and security instability were behind their desire to leave.

Border stand-off

Thousands of migrants from the Middle East, including many from Iraq, are camped out on the EU-Belarus border.

Western countries accuse Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s government of engineering the crisis by encouraging migrants to come to Belarus and then taking them to the border.

Regular air links between Baghdad and Minsk have been suspended since August, while Belarusian diplomatic missions in Baghdad and Erbil, have been closed for more than a week.

The measures “have reduced the trips by Iraqis (to Belarus) but the problem is that some are now taking indirect flights, passing through Qatar, the UAE and Egypt,” Sahaf said.

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On Friday, Turkey banned citizens of Syria, Iraq and Yemen from flying from its airports to Belarus, while private Syrian carrier Cham Wings Airlines on Saturday halted flights to Minsk.

European Commission vice president Margaritis Schinas is due to travel to Baghdad on Monday to discuss the migration crisis.

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