WARSAW, Poland (AP) – An Iraqi migrant died near Poland’s border with Belarus and another was hospitalized with COVID-19, Polish border guards said on Friday.
The fatality brings the death toll to five among migrants attempting to get from Belarus through an area of dense forests and bogs to EU member states Poland and Lithuania.
The Iraqi migrant died despite efforts to resuscitate him. Polish officials have attributed the previous deaths to hypothermia and exhaustion.
Border guards posted on her Twitter account that one of a group of Iraqi migrants arrested about 500 meters from the border with Belarus within Poland has died of a likely heart attack.
The other migrant was rushed to hospital after testing positive for a COVID-19 test.
Human rights organizations deal with the plight of migrants – mainly from Iraq and Afghanistan – trying to get into the EU.
Two United Nations agencies have asked for access to asylum seekers stranded on the Belarusian border with Poland and Lithuania. Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson and other officials are planning a visit shortly to assess the situation at the border.
A spokesman for the EU Commission, Adalbert Jahnz, said on Friday that it was “imperative that Poland perform the tasks of border protection effectively”, but also called on the authorities to “ensure that the people at the border take the necessary care and help obtain. ”
Poland’s government insists that its main task is to protect the border against the influx of migrants and accuses the Moscow-backed Belarusian government of organizing it.
Warsaw has so far ignored EU proposals that the bloc’s border and coast guard, Frontex, help guard the border.
Jahnz said it was the Commission’s view that using Frontex at the border would be “a very good idea” but that it was up to Poland to request it.
Polish government spokesman Piotr Mueller said that using Frontex would not change the situation and that the Polish armed forces are doing their job well.
The Polish and Lithuanian governments have imposed a state of emergency on 1 kilometer wide strips along their border with Belarus, denying entry to everyone except border guards, the military and security services. They also build barbed wire fences along their border with Belarus.
Poland and Lithuania have welcomed an unusual number of Middle East and African migrants and refugees arriving from Belarus in recent months. The influx of migrants began after Western countries imposed sanctions on Lukashenko’s government for the country’s controversial presidential election in August 2020 and crackdown on the opposition.
Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this.