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“No water, no food, no sleep, no way to escape.” Thousands of migrants, including Syrians, are stuck on the Belarus-Poland border living in inhuman conditions. Many of them died, and the Belarusian authorities confiscated their phones and pushed them towards The border fence under climatic conditions no less severe than the political and economic reality that threw them at the borders of those countries.

“No water, no food, no sleep, no way to escape.” Thousands of migrants, including Syrians, are stuck on the Belarus-Poland border living in inhuman conditions. Many of them died, and the Belarusian authorities confiscated their phones and pushed them towards The border fence under climatic conditions no less severe than the political and economic reality that threw them at the borders of those countries.


An investigation reveals the involvement of (Cham Wings) in the migrant crisis from Damascus to Belarus.
Migrants at the Belarusian-Polish border | Internet

An investigation reveals the involvement of (Cham Wings) in the migrant crisis from Damascus to Belarus.

editorial team editorial team   Saturday 13th November 2021

editorial team editorial team   Saturday 13th November 2021

“No water, no food, no sleep, no way to escape.” Thousands of migrants, including Syrians, are stuck on the Belarus-Poland border living in inhuman conditions. Many of them died, and the Belarusian authorities confiscated their phones and pushed them towards The border fence under climatic conditions no less severe than the political and economic reality that threw them at the borders of those countries. 

The route of the migrants line starts from the Middle East (Iraq - Jordan - Syria - Turkey) and some countries of the African continent through human smuggling networks on tourist visas, then to the border of Poland with the help of smugglers.

In this investigation, we review the role of the "Cham Wings" company in transporting Syrians through direct flights from Damascus to Minsk through airline offices that have been working in coordination with the company which designated on US Treasury sanctions list since December 2016," for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services in support of, the Government of Syria and Syrian Arab Airlines.” And through testimonies of people who traveled from Damascus to Minsk on tourist visas with the aim of reaching Europe later, and tourist offices that organize direct trips to that region, using open source tools.  

Damascus is the gateway to Europe.

There are several tourism companies in the Syrian capital, Damascus, working to transfer those who wish to Belarus through direct flights from Damascus to the Belarusian capital, Minsk, in preparation for their crossing to Europe in exchange for huge sums of money, according to what was confirmed to the (Verify-sy) platform by a number of those who traveled recently.

Samer (38 years), a resident of the city of Salamiyah in Hama countryside, One of his relatives residing in Damascus, told (Verify-sy) platform:  "Samer traveled about a week ago from Damascus International Airport with a direct flight to Minsk on Cham Wings Airlines."

He stated that Samer went to the Cham Wings Company in Damascus and paid 16 million Syrian pounds (about 5,000$) in exchange for obtaining a ticket, an entry visa, and a stay in a hotel for three days in Minsk. He added that he traveled with 11 people from his city to Belarus in the hope of crossing them to Europe. 

Migrants at the Belarusian-Polish border | Reuters
Migrants at the Belarusian-Polish border | Reuters

And some media reports confirm that many migrants, paying several thousand dollars to tourism companies that have relations with the Belarusian authorities, provide a visa and flight, a short stay in a hotel in Minsk, and then transfer them to the Polish border. 

Samer's relatives are still waiting for a call from him to check on, especially after what happened on the Belarusian-Polish border, stranding thousands of migrants there.

Younis, 39, a young man from the city of Qardaha, the birthplace of Bashar al-Assad, President of the Syrian regime, is now one of those stranded at the Belarusian-Polish border, after he traveled from Damascus via (Cham Wings) to Minsk, “hoping to reach Europe and start a new life away from war… Sacrificing many members of his sect in defense of the rule of the Assad family, who only gave them coffins,” as he put it.

Younis said that the opportunity to reach Europe through Belarus is his only chance to survive and search for a new beginning for him and his family that he left behind, as he is from a sect affiliated with the ruling regime in Syria, and the possibility of crossing it earlier was not available because those wishing to emigrate were taking the sea route. From Turkey to Greece, passing through the areas under the control of the Syrian opposition, it will not be difficult for them to identify his sect through his identity card on which his place of birth - Qardaha - was written on it.

Regarding his trip from Damascus and the way he reached the Polish border, Younis said: "The most difficult thing is to secure the amount that a person needs to book a one-way ticket. I had to sell everything I owned, and borrowed the bulk of it from one of my relatives, and paid 4,500 US dollars to the travel company that took care of the rest Logistics, and when I arrived at Minsk airport, I moved with those who were on the flight to the hotel, and there we found many smugglers who were waiting for us, and each of them had a designated time to transport those wishing to reach the Polish border.

Polish border forces armed with shields prevent hundreds of migrants from entering Poland
Polish border forces armed with shields prevent hundreds of migrants from entering Poland

Younis continued: "I and a group of young men agreed with the smuggler. Most of us were Syrians, and among us were a number of Iraqis coming from the Kurdistan Region. We were taken to the point where asylum seekers are, and we are now waiting to be allowed to cross."

On the ninth of this November, a circulating video on social media shows a queue of young men lined up at the gate entrance of Damascus International Airport, and the photo/grapher of the video says in Kurdish that these people are heading from Damascus to Belarus.



The Associated Press
reported that migrants from Syria, Iraq and other places have recently started arriving in the Belarusian capital, Minsk. 

The agency quoted a word from a Syrian man in his 40s -a car mechanic- says he doesn’t care about Lukashenko’s motives or the reports of suffering at the Belarus border, and he is determined to reach Belarus with his sons aged 16 and 17 and eventually arrive. to Germany. There he hopes to find work and arrange for his wife and two children to join him. “There is no future here for young people, whether in education, culture or social life,” according to the forty-year-old man. 

He added that he had heard on social media about travel agencies in Damascus that would take him to Belarus for 4000 US dollars. He applied for a visa for himself and his children after he borrowed the money. 

Visa through (Cham Wings)

Tourism and travel companies in the capital, Damascus, organize the trip of asylum seekers under the cover of tourism. The companies secure entry visas to Belarus through (Cham Wings) company, according to the testimony of a number of tourism company owners to us.

One of the owners of these companies told (Verify-sy) that his company provides "all necessary services for any traveler, starting from entering the company's headquarters and ending with his arrival in Minsk, at a cost of about 4,500 to 5,000 US dollars, in coordination with the consular section of the Embassy of the Republic of Belarus in Damascus." 

The source added -on condition of anonymity- that "there are fake companies that have offices in Damascus that give counterfeited entry visas to Belarus, and the result is stealing people and laughing at them." 

A source from another company indicated that the recent increase in the demand for travel to Belarus has raised the cost of immigration per person from $2,000 to nearly $5,000, adding that most of these flights are on (Cham Wings) Airlines. 

Verify-Sy monitored many testimonies that were published online in one of the open groups on Telegram platform, including thousands of people interested in seeking asylum in Europe. One of them confirmed that the Cham Wings Office offered to obtain a Belarus visa at a cost of $4,000.

(Cham Wings) is involved in the exacerbation of the migrant crisis from Damascus to Belarus
(Cham Wings) is involved in the exacerbation of the migrant crisis from Damascus to Belarus

Flights from Damascus to Belarus are continued despite the exacerbation of the crisis

exacerbation of the crisis of asylum seekers stranded at the Belarusian-Polish border prompted the General Directorate of Civil Aviation in Turkey and Belarusian Airlines to announce a travel ban on citizens of Syria, Iraq and Yemen from Turkey to Belarus until further notice.

The announcement follows calls for a ban on flights from Middle-East countries to Belarus, which facilitates the arrival of migrants to its borders via airlines, where the General Directorate of Civil Aviation in Turkey stated on Friday, November 12, in a tweet via its Twitter account that its decision came Because of the problem of the crossing of illegal immigrants from Belarus to the countries of the European Union.


In turn, the Belarusian Airlines “Bellavia” announced in a statement on its official website that its decision to ban the travel of citizens of the mentioned countries came in line with the decision of the Turkish authorities, allowing full refunds to those affected by the decision.

In contrast, (Cham Wings) company continues conducting flights to Minsk until now, According to scheduled flights between Damascus and Minsk, so the aircraft Airbus A320 belonging to (Cham Wings) will arrive at noon on Sunday November 14, 2021 to Minsk airport.

(Cham Wings) continues to operate its flights from Damascus to the Belarusian capital, Minsk
(Cham Wings) continues to operate its flights from Damascus to the Belarusian capital, Minsk

Also our search in flightradar24, a website specialized in tracking flights, showed results that flight (6Q431) that departed from Damascus International Airport at dawn on Friday 12 November, landed at Minsk Airport at 11:38 pm.

(Cham Wings) flight from Damascus to Minsk on November 12
(Cham Wings) flight from Damascus to Minsk on November 12

The last trip was preceded by several trips that appear on the same open source site.

(Cham Wings) flights from Damascus to Minsk
(Cham Wings) flights from Damascus to Minsk

after searching within the same site, we find the return flights from Minsk to Damascus, but with less details of these trips, so the final destination is unknown:

(Cham Wings) flights from Damascus to Minsk
(Cham Wings) flights from Damascus to Minsk

which prompted us to search through Another site, RadarBox which specialized in tracking flight movements around the world, and based on the same flight number that we found on the previous site, it turns out that there were 19 flights that took place between September 17 and November 12 of this year, until the date of writing this investigation on November 13, 2021.

(Cham Wings) flights from Damascus to Minsk during the period from 17 September to 12 November (2021)
(Cham Wings) flights from Damascus to Minsk during the period from 17 September to 12 November (2021)

Likewise for the return flights:

(Cham Wings) flights from Damascus to Minsk during the period from 17 September to 12 November (2021)
(Cham Wings) flights from Damascus to Minsk during the period from 17 September to 12 November (2021)

It is indicated that the site does not display flights that depart from or pass through countries subjected to sanctions such as North Korea, Iran and Syria, but captures their signals when passing through non-prohibited countries -that’s why the source of the flights was written "near Iraq" while the final destination "Minsk" is explicitly mentioned.

According to these results, we find that the two types of aircraft used in these flights are manufactured by AirBus, type(A320-211) and (A320-212), and both of them can carry (182) passengers on each flight, according to the (airport-data) website, which specialized in publishing Information and details related to airports and aircraft, and by these 19 flights that took place during the last period from September 17 to November 12 of this year, about 3,458 people were transferred from Damascus Airport to the Belarusian capital, Minsk.

The number of people stranded at the Belarusian-Polish border is estimated at about four thousand, while (Verify-sy) platform was unable to reach accurate statistics indicating the way in which asylum seekers reached and gathered near the Koznica border, in hope of crossing the border and entering Polish territory.

A satellite image on November 10 of the Belarusian-Polish border | Maxar Technologies
A satellite image on November 10 of the Belarusian-Polish border | Maxar Technologies

Brussels announced on Tuesday, November 9, that it had placed 20 countries, including (Russia and Syria) under surveillance, on suspicion of their involvement in the arrival of migrants to Belarus, which the European Union accuses of masterminding the flow of these people to the EU's external borders.

Yesterday, Friday, the six member states of the UN Security Council (the United States, Britain, France, Norway, Estonia and Ireland) issued a joint statement accusing Belarus of practicing "the organized exploitation of human beings" on its borders with Poland with the aim of "destabilizing the external borders of the European Union."

On the other hand, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko vowed a harsh response if the European Union imposes new sanctions on his country over the asylum seekers crisis, while Russian President Vladimir Putin called for a compromise solution to the mounting concern about this crisis.

Belarus Embassy in Damascus stopped tourist visas temporarily

The Embassy of Belarus In Syria suspended receiving documents to obtain entry visas during the period from 8 to November 16, according to a declaration posted on the outside door of the embassy, pointing out that consular section work is Limited to delivering the passports during this period, as a result of “technical reasons” they commented.

According to owners of many tourism companies that provide visas to their clients, the suspension came due to the accumulation of more than 2,200 passports inside the embassy, ​​and this number is much greater than the capability of the employees to issue visas, in addition to the exhaustion of the labels as a result of the great demand for it by the Citizens.

The Belarusian Embassy in Damascus temporarily suspends tourist visas
The Belarusian Embassy in Damascus temporarily suspends tourist visas

It is expected that the Belarusian embassy will resume the process of receiving passports and obtaining entry visas on the specified date in light of the continuation of (Cham Wings) company to operate its flights from Damascus to Minsk in complete disregard of the crisis experienced by asylum seekers at the Belarusian-Polish border, at the expense of material and political gains.

It is noteworthy that the Polish police announced today, Saturday, that "a Syrian young man, about 20 years old, was found died yesterday in the forest near the border in the village of Wolka Terchovska," and added in a tweet via their Twitter account today, Saturday, November 13 that the activities Which were happened at the place where the body was found did not allow the police to determine the cause of death unambiguously.


Human Rights Watch also issued a report yesterday in which it said that refugees were forcibly detained in open spaces coinciding with the low temperature in that area, and the acute shortage of food and water in the border area.

The report stated that the Belarusian border guards continue to push refugees to try to enter Poland, noting that most attempts end with forcibly returning refugees to Belarus, exposing them to further violations.

As a result of the humanitarian crisis on the Belarusian border, eight refugees have died so far, after being detained alongside thousands of asylum seekers at the Belarus border in inhuman conditions.

The report quoted one of the detainees at the border that Belarus gives them two options: "Die here or go to Poland", noting that the Polish border guards ignored asylum applications.

Update: after this investigation was published, an employee in (Cham Wings) company commented on our post with a statement from the company suspending flights to Belarus immediately.

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References

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