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EU toughens visa process for Belarus officials over migrant crisis

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By Reuters

BRUSSELS – European Union governments partially suspended on Tuesday a visa facilitation deal for Belarusian officials in response to a “hybrid attack” that Brussels says Minsk is waging by pushing migrants across its borders with Poland and Lithuania.

The EU accuses Belarus of encouraging migrants from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa to cross the border into the bloc in revenge for sanctions slapped on Minsk over human rights abuses.

“This decision is a response to the ongoing hybrid attack launched by the Belarusian regime,” said the statement from the EU Council, which represents the bloc’s member states.

It said the move would affect Belarusian officials, and not complicate existing visa procedures for ordinary citizens.

Thousands of migrants were camped out near the Belarusian border with Poland in freezing overnight temperatures, as Polish authorities braced on Tuesday for further clashes with people attempting to breach the frontier.

Some used logs, spades and other tools on Monday to try to break down a border fence, escalating the months-long crisis.