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Ylva Johansson "It's not really a migration crisis. It's a geopolitical crisis."

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By Méabh Mc Mahon
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Ylva Johansson
Ylva Johansson   -   Copyright  euronews

Méabh Mc Mahon, Euronews

Hello there, and welcome to the Global Conversation here on Euronews. I'm joined now by Ylva Johansson, the European Commissioner responsible for Home Affairs and migration, and we here to talk about the ongoing humanitarian situation on the EU's border with Belarus. Ylva Johansson, thank you so much for being our guest today and taking time to be on the Global Conversation.

Now, a team from Euronews is just back from the border region, and they said the situation there was appalling, deteriorating by the day. We heard the same from the Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner. So, I'd just like to ask you, are you satisfied with your response to the situation so far?

Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs

We are now in situation where it's de-escalating. Of course, you can never be satisfied when you have people, human beings in a freezing area. We have seen several deaths. Children are in a difficult situation. Of course, you can't be satisfied with that. But also, I'm satisfied that we have been able to have a clear response that Lukashenko, a desperate regime, sometimes called the last dictator in Europe, has been trying to sell illegal tickets to the European Union.

Méabh Mc Mahon, Euronews

But if the EU would have had a more coherent asylum and migration system, could all these deaths and all this human suffering have been prevented?

Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs

Yes, I think so. I think we are vulnerable in two aspects. First, the lack of an agreement to deal with migration helps the narrative of migration being something toxic and difficult. And that is really what a regime like the Lukashenko regime are using.

Méabh Mc Mahon, Euronews

And I read your blog there this weekend and you wrote that member states are telling you that this crisis shows that the European Union urgently needs to agree on the pact. What is it up to them to agree on the pact? Why won't they?

Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs

Yes. And I think that we will see, I hope, and I guess, that we will see a new momentum on the pact from the member states because I think it's be more and more obvious to do more and more member states that the lack of an agreement makes us more vulnerable than we need to be. And this is what we have seen now from Belarus, that it's not a migration crisis. They have used human beings to instrumentalise them. But it's not really a migration crisis. It's a geopolitical crisis.

Méabh Mc Mahon, Euronews

It is also a humanitarian crisis with so many people dying. And I mean, you've been blaming Belarus from the from the start. But what about Poland, EU member state Poland? I spoke to an activist there on the ground, and she said the Polish army is ‘destroying the phones of people, beating them up, dividing families, pushing back refugees. It sounds a bit like Poland is just as cruel as Lukashenko.

Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs

No, I think it's important to understand who started all this, who is the one to blame as the Lukashenko. He's the one luring people into a very, very dangerous situation. So this is important to remember, but it's also important to remember that we are not Lukashenko, we are the European Union. Of course, we need to comply with other standards, and that's why I've been calling on the Polish government to be more transparent. I think it's really a problem with a lack of transparency of what's going on the Polish side and also the lack of access for organisations like UNHCR and IOM.

Méabh Mc Mahon, Euronews

Well, that's what I want to ask you because you say where the European Union was supposed to be now an advocate for press freedom, but yet journalists aren't even allowed to get in and report the story.

Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs

Yeah. And I think that this is not the right thing. We need transparency. We need access for media, we need access for NGOs. And of course, also we need compliance with our fundamental rights. And I must say that I would like to warn a bit of the I hear voices now saying that we have to choose whether we should protect our external borders or if we should protect the right to apply for asylum and fundamental rights. And this is really a false trap because we can do both and we have to do both. Otherwise, we are not really European.

Méabh Mc Mahon, Euronews

And just regarding the humanitarian angle, I mean, what will happen to those migrants who need a safe haven? Do you want to see them distributed across the continent?

Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs

What we have now is that around seven thousand five hundred had been registered in Lithuania, Poland and Latvia, and they are, I guess most of them will apply for asylum and they will have an asylum process. If the member states ask for support, of course, we would provide that.

Méabh Mc Mahon, Euronews

But Poland hasn't asked for help yet or won't allow Frontex to the area, but will allow the British military go there. How does that make you feel?

Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs

I think it. Of course, Frontex. We could never impose Frontex on any member states. It has to come that the members, they would like to have the support of Frontex. But I really think it's a really good idea to have Frontex at our external borders because now it's important to show that these are EU external borders and that I think the presence of Frontex shows that. And that is also a good answer and a message towards Belarus.

Méabh Mc Mahon, Euronews

OK, just one final question. Are you planning to visit the region? Or perhaps you won't be allowed in either. Just like the Council of Europe's head of human rights wasn't allowed in.

Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs

I have no plans to go there right now, but I hope to be in close contact with the Polish minister in short.

Méabh Mc Mahon, Euronews

OK. We'll catch up soon on that. Thank you so much over your handsome commissioner there for Home Affairs and migration. Thanks for being our guest on the global conversation.

Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs

Yes. thank you.