On Monday, tens of thousands of migrants gathered near the Poland-Belarus border, according to Polish police. This happened as EU member-states pressed for tougher sanctions on Minsk and security forces braced for fresh attempts by immigrants to cross the border.
Read further for details.
Video recordings have been circulating, showing hundreds of migrants heading towards the Polish border. The videos also show some attempting to breach the border fence with spades and other implements. In the wake of such a crisis, Warsaw has accused Belarus of attempting to provoke a huge clash.
Poland takes steps to deal with migrants
According to Piotr Muller, a spokesman for the Polish administration, there are presently 3,000-4,000 migrants along the border. He added that there are also more than 10,000 others in Belarus preparing to cross into Poland. Warsaw claimed it had sent in more soldiers, border guards and police to deal with the masses. On the other hand, Lithuania also said that it was considering declaring a state of emergency along its border with Belarus. On Monday, the migrants attempted to force their way across the border, but Polish authorities said they were unsuccessful.
Furthermore, the Polish Border Guard announced the closure of the crossing at Kuznica, as of 0600 GMT on Tuesday. Kuznica is close to the site where the migrants had previously attempted to force their way through into Polish territory. President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen has called on member-states to support the extension of sanctions against Belarusian authorities.
The EU also intends to pursue third-country airlines that assist in the movement of migrants from the Middle East to Belarus.
EU Accuses Minsk of Weaponizing Migration
The European Union has accused Minsk of pushing migrants from the Middle East and Africa to enter the EU via Belarus. The body has also claimed that immigration is being used by Belarus as a sort of hybrid retaliatory warfare mechanism against Western sanctions. The sanctions had been placed against President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime for human rights violations. Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, defended Minsk’s handling of the migrant crisis on Monday, saying Belarus was taking all required steps to act legally.
Humanitarian Crisis at Border
According to charities, the migrants are battling subzero temperatures, as well as a shortage of food and medical care. Seven migrants were found dead on Poland’s side of the border, with more deaths reported in Belarus.
Humanitarian organizations have further accused Poland’s ruling nationalists of violating the international right to refuge. These organizations have put Poland under fire mainly for deporting migrants to Belarus rather than approving their asylum claims. The country, however, has claimed that its actions have been lawful.
Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s Prime Minister, wrote on Facebook: “The Polish border is more than a map line. The boundary is sacred; Polish blood has been shed in its defence!”
Want to catch up on what’s happening around the world? Read with us!