NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) – The European Union should take “specific measures” to prevent Belarus from “pushing” migrants across its border into Polish territory, the Polish President said on Thursday.
President Andrzej Duda did not outline these measures, but said he hoped for help beyond what the border agency FRONTEX of the 27-strong bloc is already doing on the ground.
“I believe and hope that … the European Union will take concrete measures to get the Belarusian authorities to change their stance,” said Duda after talks with his Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades in Nicosia.
Thousands of migrants from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa have been lured into Belarus on tourist visas and encouraged to cross to Poland, Lithuania and, to a lesser extent, Latvia – all three EU countries that border Belarus.
Several recently died of exhaustion trying to get into Poland via an area of forests and swamps.
Duda said the situation along the Polish border with Belarus was “totally in violation of international law” and accused the Belarusian authorities of “irresponsible” behavior.
Duda said Poland was acting to prevent the situation from turning into a continent-wide crisis and that EU countries could “be quiet” that Warsaw was protecting the bloc’s external borders.
On Wednesday, exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya of Belarus warned of a “humanitarian catastrophe” she believes is being created by the Belarusian regime that enables large-scale migration to the EU.
Poland has taken a tough approach to securing its border, saying it must defend its national security in the face of an attack by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in the “hybrid war” in retaliation for Warsaw’s support for the Belarusian opposition.
Anastasiades said the EU was united in its condemnation of making migrants a political tool and called for action against countries that do so.
The Cypriot government has accused Turkey of deliberately leading migrants to Cyprus through the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of the ethnically divided island state. Officials say Cyprus has the highest number of asylum applications relative to its population of any other EU member.
Follow AP’s global migration reporting at https://apnews.com/hub/migration
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