Poland has announced that it will extend the state of emergency by 60 days along its border with Belarus, citing a “serious threat to national security”. Meanwhile, aid agencies are warning of a humanitarian disaster along the Polish-Belarusian border following the confirmed deaths of five migrants.
On Monday (September 27), Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski told reporters that Poland had registered 9,400 attempts to irregularly cross the Polish border from Belarus since August. A total of 8,200 of the attempts were stopped and around 1,200 people are being held in detention centers after being apprehended while entering Poland, Kaminski said.
At the press conference, the minister also presented the findings of the Polish special service on the detained migrants. The report claims that the phones of some detained migrants contain evidence of their criminal past. The allegations include links to terrorist organizations and, in some cases, longstanding ties to Russia.
The results “also indicate that Russia is emerging as an increasingly important point on the illegal migration route to Poland and the European Union,” said a statement by the special service.
The presence of such persons in Poland “may pose a serious threat to national security,” the statement said, which, according to the Associated press (AP) news agency, could not be verified. In the meantime, AP reported that Poland’s Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak accused the Belarusian armed forces of firing shots in the air, pointing guns at Polish soldiers and carrying out other confrontation actions.
“Incidents are provoked at the border that can lead to very tense situations,” said Blaszczak. He advocates the government extending the state of emergency along the border.
Together with Latvia, Poland declared a state of emergency along the border areas for 30 days at the beginning of September in order to reduce the number of irregular border crossings. Interior Minister Kaminski said he wanted an extension of another 60 days. On Monday he said on Twitter that he would “make a recommendation to the government to extend the state of emergency”.
Poland also sent 500 additional soldiers and special vehicles to its border with Belarus. Both Poland and Lithuania are currently building barbed wire fences and increasing border patrols. On Monday, the Polish Ministry of Defense tweeted that the border fence would be over two meters high and that 2,500 soldiers were now stationed on the 400-kilometer border.
Tensions between Belarus and the EU
In recent months, thousands of migrants, mainly from the Middle East, tried to enter the European Union via Belarus and chose routes to the EU member states of Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.
The governments of the three countries have repeatedly accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of attempting to destabilize the EU by encouraging people from the Middle East and Africa to move towards the border in his country in order to sow divisions and chaos within the EU. His actions were in response to EU sanctions imposed on his country after his security forces rerouted a Ryanair plane from Greece to Lithuania in May. The plane had a Belarusian activist and his girlfriend on board, both of whom are now in prison in Belarus.
Most of the migrants who enter Poland irregularly from Belarus apparently want to reach Germany, where more and more irregular entries are being registered. The federal police have taken measures to accommodate the comers, the number of which they are expected to increase further.
On Friday (September 24th), German publication image reported that Iraqi migrants are paying smugglers thousands of euros to help them fly to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, from where they take taxis or travel to EU countries on foot. Corresponding image, warned some migrants about the dangerous route from Belarus to the EU. Aside from that, image reports that an initial reception facility in the German border town of Eisenhüttenstadt is busy.
Continue reading: “It’s like death”: Pushbacks by the Polish border guards endanger the lives of migrants
Aid workers warn of a humanitarian crisis
While the state of emergency and other tough government measures are largely popular with Poles amid the rising numbers of irregular migrants, NGOs and international organizations have criticized Poland for its treatment of migrants in the border region.
In view of reports of weeks of stranding, further mass gatherings of migrants from the Middle East entering the EU and sub-zero temperatures at night and in winter on the horizon, aid organizations are warning of a humanitarian catastrophe could occur along the Polish border with Belarus.
“We appeal to the Polish government to allow doctors and paramedics access to the border,” Maria Zlonkiewicz of the recently founded Grupa Granica, an organization that monitors the situation on the Polish border, told the news agency dpa on Tuesday (September 28th). “Otherwise we will find a lot of bodies in the spring,” she added.
Since September 19, five migrants have died on the Polish-Belarusian border, all of them believed to be Iraqi nationals. In early September, two Afghan refugee children died in Poland after eating poisonous mushrooms.
Auxiliary and rights workers who work for migrants fleeing war or poverty at home consider the state of emergency to be unjustified and argue that the actions of the authorities in the border area cannot be controlled.
Several activists entered the Warsaw office of the Polish Red Cross on Monday and went on a sit-in because they accused the organization of doing too little for the migrants.
Continue reading: Commissioner for Human Rights urges Poland to protect the rights of captured migrants
With AP, dpa