Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko visited a warehouse sheltering hundreds of migrantsat the border between Poland and Belaruson Friday.
In televised remarks, the longtime leader encouraged the migrants to continue their attempts to enter the EU.
“If anybody wants to go West — that is your right. We will not try to catch you, beat you, and hold you behind barbed wire,” Lukashenko said.
“We will work with you to achieve your dream,” the president said to applause from the migrants.
While Belarus has started flying some of the migrants home, Lukashenko believes Germany should accept those stranded at the border.
“Please take these people in. This number is not very big. They want to live in Germany — 2,000 people is not a big problem for Germany,” he said.
Germany has made it clear that it will not be taking in the migrants.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said earlier in November that if Berlin took in migrants it “would mean implementing the very basis of this perfidious strategy.”
The border region has been a flashpoint in recent weeks, as thousands of people mainly from Middle Eastern countries attempted to make their way across Poland toward richer EU states. People set up camp in freezing forests with little to no food or water.
The EU has accused Belarus of engineering the crisis on the border by bringing migrants into the region and using them as part of a “hybrid war”, retaliation for sanctions imposed on the Lukashenko regime.
New sanctions have been agreed upon and are expected to be adopted in December.
Aid organizations say that at least 11 migrants have died on both sides of the border since the crisis began.
kb/dj (AFP, Reuters)