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Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Friday promised warm food and clothing to migrants who choose to stay on the border between the former Soviet nation and Poland and will not return to their home country

Lukashenko made this promise during a visit to an establishment that welcomes migrants at the border.

“My task is to help you people in difficulty,” Lukashenko said, addressing thousands of migrants during a visit to a settlement welcoming migrants at the Bruzgi warehouse. “We Belarusians, including myself, will do everything as you wish, even if it is bad for Poles, Latvians and someone else.”

“We will work with you on your dream,” Lukashenko added.

Lukashenko’s visit comes after weeks of tension at the border, where hundreds of people remain stranded. Since November 8, a large group of people, mostly from the Middle East, have been stranded in Belarus at a border post with Poland, trapped as forces from the two countries clash. Most flee conflict or a sense of hopelessness at home and aim to reach Germany or other countries in Western Europe.

Lukashenko again called on Germany to accept migrants.

On Friday, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert strongly denied Lukashenko’s claims that Germany had agreed to welcome 2,000 migrants currently in Belarus.

“It is not true that Germany accepts this,” he told reporters in Berlin.

Videos and photographs taken by local media show the authoritarian leader of Belarus investigating conditions in overcrowded migrant neighborhoods. Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported that crowds of migrants cheered Lukashenko on his arrival.

Lukashenko said that apart from around 2,000 people at the border crossing, another 2,000 to 3,000 migrants are currently staying in Belarus. He promised the migrants that Belarusian authorities would help them return to their country of origin, but only if they wanted to.

“Under no circumstances will we arrest you, tie your hands, board you on planes and send you home if you don’t want to,” Lukashenko said.

Lukashenko said around 200 migrants still manage to enter the EU illegally every day.

More than 170 people returned to the Kurdish-ruled region of northern Iraq on Friday and another return flight is scheduled for later today. Last week 430 Iraqis returned home after a failed attempt to join the European Union.

The West has accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of luring thousands of migrants to Belarus by promising to help them get to Western Europe to use them as pawns to destabilize the 27-country European Union in retaliation for its sanctions against its authoritarian government. Belarus denies having conceived the crisis.

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ABC News

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