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Russian and Belarusian regimes exploit illegal migration facilitated by human smugglers

Russian and Belarusian regimes exploit illegal migration facilitated by human smugglers

The Belarusian and Russian regimes exploit the illegal migration, which has become a profitable business for human smugglers, for political purposes. Their aim is to retaliate against the EU and some of its member states for their political positions, criticism, sanctions, and other actions that these regimes regard as hostile. In 2023, Russia highly likely used migration against Finland in response to its policy towards Russia, support for Ukraine, and accession to NATO.

Migrants cross the border between Russia and Finland on bicycles Lehtikuva / Scanpix

This tactic is reminiscent of the situation in 2015, when the Russian regime attempted to use migrants to force neighbouring countries into negotiations.

The Belarusian regime highly likely will continue to exert pressure on Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland and exploit illegal migration to achieve its goals in the near term. Illegal migration trends from Belarus to the EU constantly change, with both migrants and human smugglers adapting to the situation along the EU border. In the short term, Russia and Belarus highly likely will continue to serve as transit countries for migrants seeking to enter the EU illegally.

Illegal migration to Europe has been increasing for several years, reaching a record high in 2023. The central Mediterranean route, passing through Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria to Italy, remains the primary route for illegal migration to the EU. The situation highly likely will persist in the near term due to military conflicts, instability, complicated economic, social, and demographic situations in many African and Middle East countries as well as an increased number of natural disasters related to climate change

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