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Friday, December 3, 2021

Belarus migrants: Poland faces fresh border breaches


Poland faced “many attempts” to breach the border with Belarus overnight but now has 15,000 troops to repel them, the defence minister has said.

Thousands of migrants have become stranded at the border, at the centre of an escalating international dispute.

For months, the EU, and now NATO and the United States, have accused Belarus’ authoritarian leader of provoking a new migrant crisis in Europe.

An increasing number of people have travelled to Belarus’s borders with the EU.

Alexander Lukashenko, who won a largely discredited election last year, denies luring would-be migrants, mostly from the Middle East, to the EU’s borders in retaliation for sanctions imposed after he brutally suppressed protesters and opponents.

The situation has reached a boiling point this week, with repeated attempts to demolish the razor-wire fence that has been erected on Poland’s eastern border.

“It wasn’t a peaceful night. There were numerous attempts to cross the Polish border “According to Polish radio, Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak. Two separate incidents involving groups of about 50 people were reported by police. Meanwhile, the border guard reported 599 attempts to cross illegally in the previous day, with nine people detained, all from the Middle East.

Poland and Belarus have both accused each other of using violence against migrants camped near the border. These claims are difficult to verify because a BBC team and other journalists have been barred from entering the area due to a local Polish state of emergency.

However, the Warsaw defence ministry tweeted a video alleging that a Belarussian soldier fired a shot to intimidate migrants camped near the fence.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.

View original tweet on Twitter

Temperatures at the border have dropped below freezing overnight, and some of those stranded there have warned that they are running out of food and water.

Aid workers complain that the state of emergency in Poland prevents them from entering the affected area: “It’s heartbreaking for us. We’re close to the border, but we can’t enter the zone to help people. We can only assist those who successfully cross the border and exit the restricted area “According to Ania Chmielewska of the BBC.

Aid agencies are only able to help migrants who successfully cross the border into Poland and get beyond the immediate zone

Earlier attempts, according to the defence minister, were concentrated in the area surrounding a major border crossing at Kuznica, but the latest efforts are more dispersed. As Polish guards try to repel the intruders, they have used bolt cutters and tree trunks.

Many of the migrants are young men, but there are also women and children, the majority of whom are from the Middle East and Asia.

According to the European Commission, Mr. Lukashenko enticed migrants with the false promise of easy entry into the EU as part of a “inhuman, gangster-style approach,” and it has named 20 countries from which migrants have flown into Minsk, primarily on tourist visas.

On Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stated that the EU would not be blackmailed. He stated that the EU would work to extend sanctions against Belarus, saying, “We will sanction all those who participate in targeted migrant smuggling.”

In a speech to the Polish parliament on Tuesday, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki accused Russian and Belarussian leaders of attempting to destabilise the European Union, which the two countries do not belong to, by allowing migrants to transit through Belarus and enter the bloc.

“This attack by Lukashenko has a mastermind in Moscow, and that mastermind is President Putin,” he said.

Russia, in turn, has blamed the EU. Mr Putin’s spokesman dismissed the Polish prime minister’s accusation, saying that “this is nothing more than yet another attempt to strangle Belarus.”

According to her spokesman, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Mr Putin on Wednesday and asked him to pressure Belarus to stop “instrumentalizing migrants.”

On a visit to Moscow, Belarus Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei stated that he was seeking mutual support from Russia and blamed the EU for causing the crisis.

Hundreds of Polish police cars rush to the village of Kuznica, where up to 4,000 migrants are effectively trapped.

To their chagrin, the area remains off-limits to the media and, more importantly, aid organisations.

One man we spoke with, an Iraqi Kurd, told us they’d spent another night in freezing temperatures and asked us, exasperated, what kind of life this was.

When I asked what they were doing for food, he said the Belarusians were supplying it. Other migrants have told us that Belarus security forces are also handing out wire cutters to help them break through the fence in areas where Poland’s numerous guards are scarce.

Poland has been accused of pushing migrants back across the border into Belarus, in violation of international asylum rules.

“Nobody is letting us in anywhere, Belarus or Poland,” Shwan Kurd, 33, told the BBC via video call.

Shwan Kurd told the BBC how many of the migrants were trapped between Polish and Belarusian guards

He described his arrival in Belarus’s capital, Minsk, from Baghdad at the beginning of November.

“There’s no way out,” he said. “Poland is refusing to let us in. They fly helicopters every night. They don’t allow us to sleep. We’re starving. There is no water or food available here. There are small children, elderly people, and families.”

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