Image copyright AFP Image caption In some cases, Afghan refugees have served prison sentences for entering the EU
The government of Belarus is considering a plan to use Afghan migrants as pawns in a fight against a rise in EU refugee numbers, a newspaper has reported.
Investigators have identified 400 people from Afghanistan on the so-called “black list” of people barred from entering Belarus, it said.
Deputy Defence Minister Vitaly Mazurinsky is quoted as saying that the migrants will be swapped for mercenaries to train Belarus forces.
Britain’s migration minister, Stephen Green, has accused Belarus of ‘mugging’ migrants.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said he will hold talks with the EU over visas for Afghan migrants next week.
Thousands of Afghans have settled in Britain in recent years. Last year, more than 15,000 Afghans applied for asylum in the UK.
The Telegraph newspaper says that, in some cases, men and women who entered the EU via Belarus serving prison sentences for trying to enter the bloc illegally will be swapped for mercenaries trained by the Ukraine-based private security firm Primavera.
They will be presented as a “hit squad of men with weapons” on Belarus’s border with Ukraine, the newspaper quoted a leaked internal Primavera document as saying.
Belarus’s foreign ministry denies the report, saying that the Belarusian government is “preparing its troops for the liberation of Ukraine from ‘volunteers’ and mercenaries”.
Mr Mazurinsky also told reporters this week that border guards had found weapons in buses, which a border guard said had originated in Ukraine.
British migration minister Stephen Green said he was “extremely concerned” at reports that European security and defence equipment was being traded across borders.
“It seems obvious to me that the current situation is really anything but a solution to the illegal and dangerous trade in military equipment across Europe,” he told the BBC.
Europe’s defence ministers will hold a meeting next week to consider tougher measures against “mercenaries”, and “their journeys across Europe to make use of the EU migrant route” from across the Balkans, he said.
Germany is one of several European countries concerned that Ukrainian troops could seek to use black market contracts to equip Belarus’ border guards.
In April last year, Belarusian border guards shot dead a Ukrainian border agent in a border crossing in western Belarus.
Separately, prosecutors in St Petersburg said they had charged 46-year-old Vladimir Perenchik, a regular policeman who has been jailed twice, with “illegal detention, abuse of power”.