Refused entry to Europe, they return to Irbil, showing signs of beating at hands of Belarus authorities

 Defeated but somewhat relieved, a second group of Iraqis on Friday returned home to northern Iraq after a failed quest to reach the European Union, citing maltreatment and abuse suffered at the hands of Belarusian authorities< the Associated Press reports.

Over 570 people returned on two flights that landed in Irbil International Airport after 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. respectively in Iraq’s northern Kurdish-run region, according to Lawk Ghafuri, spokesman for the Kurdistan Regional Government. The first flight carried 170, the other over 400 returnees.

A group of children showed reporters their hands with wounds and infections. A returned migrant lowered his surgical mask to embrace his children who came to meet him at the airport.

Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region has been shaken by a migrant crisis resulting from thousands of people from around the Middle East — a disproportionate number of them Iraqis — trying to cross into the EU through a backdoor opened by non-EU member Belarus. Most of the repatriated Iraqis from Belarus have been Iraqi Kurds. Last week, 430 Iraqis returned home.

Some cited the cruelty of Belarusian border authorities — from beatings to threats — and attempts to push them to cross into neighboring EU countries Poland and Lithuania. They had hoped to cross, just not under threats from the Belarusians.

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