After Russia released Kaliningrad Airport to foreign airlines as part of a so-called “Open Skies” program at the beginning of October, more and more people from the Middle East are making the route via the Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea. This is shown by research by the investigative SWR research format “Full Screen”.
From the Federal Foreign Office it says: “For several months the Federal Government and EU partners have been observing an increase in unauthorized migration movements on the route via Russia (…). Latvia, Lithuania and Poland report cases of people entering illegally from Belarus with Russian visas in their passports.”
According to the SWR magazine, a Russian visa at the starting point of the escape route in northern Iraq currently costs $2,500. Escaping via Belarus costs 14,500 dollars – it is a bit more expensive via Russia because more bribes are due, a smuggler told the magazine on hidden camera.
The promise: “If your papers are there, then you need ten days from Moscow to Germany.” The Russian Foreign Ministry did not comment on the case.
Apparently, smugglers run real advertising campaigns for their services via social media and apparently even offer discounts. If you recruit more people for the escape routes, you can get a discount. “We are observing that (…) this route via Russia and Belarus is being advertised on social media,” the Foreign Office said.
Last year, an escape route was formed via Belarus, which led to the EU via Poland. According to an Iraqi travel agency owner, the route to Kaliningrad was created because the Belarusian government is taking increasingly tough action against refugees. Just like the Belarus route, the route via Kaliningrad is also associated with high risks. The refugees sometimes have to walk for hours, suffer violence, hypothermia or malnutrition.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), at least 21 people died in the cold in the Belarusian forests on the border with Poland last winter. Iraqi smugglers have now told SWR-Magazine that this escape route still exists.