Polish government calls for “state of emergency” in view of the increase in migrants from Belarus

Poland’s government has officially asked President Andrzej Duda to declare a state of emergency on parts of the border with Belarus amid a flood of migrants who Warsaw and its EU partners believe are encouraged and relieved by the Aljaksandr Lukashenka regime in Minsk.

“We have to stop these aggressive hybrid actions, which are carried out according to a script written in Minsk and by the protectors of Mr. Lukashenka,” said Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on August 31 at a press conference in Warsaw.

Duda, a close ally of the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, is likely to approve the 30-day measure, which would include parts of the Podlaskie and Lubelskie regions.

Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said in an interview with Morawiecki that a state of emergency would have little effect on the local population, but would impose boundaries on outsiders within a three-kilometer strip near the border.

Last week, Poland began building a barbed wire border fence to curb the influx of migrants from Belarusian territory, most of whom are from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Belarus crisis

Read our current coverage when the Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka increased pressure on NGOs and independent media as part of a brutal crackdown on demonstrators and the opposition following what was widely considered to be a fraudulent election in August 2020.

Relations between the West and Belarus have deteriorated since August 2020, when Lukashenka claimed victory in an election that his opponents and Western countries allegedly rigged to give him a sixth term.

The vote sparked an unprecedented wave of protests across Belarus and violent repression by the authorities.

The West refuses to recognize Lukashenka as the legitimate ruler of Belarus and has imposed sanctions on him, his closest circle and companies affiliated with him.

Brussels accuses Lukashenka of intentionally encouraging illegal migrants to enter Poland, Latvia and Lithuania in a form of “hybrid warfare”.

“Lukashenka’s regime decided to force these people onto Polish, Lithuanian and Latvian territory in order to destabilize them,” said Morawiecki.

Poland also sees Belarusian behavior as retaliation for Warsaw’s decision to give refuge to Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, a Belarusian athlete who refused to return home from the Tokyo Olympics after officials reportedly tried to convince her for criticizing her coaches punish on social media.

More than 30 migrants have been stuck at the border between armed Belarusian guards on one side and armed Polish forces on the other for more than three weeks.

Poland insists that the group is on Belarusian soil and will not bring the migrants to Polish territory or apply for asylum. Activists say there are 32 people from Afghanistan, many of whom are now sick.

Marianna Wartecka of the refugee rights group Fundacja Ocalenie said eight of the migrants had kidney problems and five had stomach problems. The sickest person in the group was a 52-year-old woman who had come from Afghanistan with her five mostly grown-up children, said Wartecka.

Over the weekend, 13 people from another group of activists, Obywatele RP (Citizens of Poland), were arrested for attempting to cut a new barbed wire barrier at the border to protest what they called “inhuman” behavior by the Polish authorities .

Kaminski described the activists’ behavior as “scandalous”.

Lithuania was the first country bordering Belarus to see a sharp increase in illegally entering migrants from Belarus in July, eventually turning it around with a state of emergency and a promise to forcibly reject illegal migrants at the Belarusian border.

This came after Lukashenka vowed to release “migrants and drugs” after the EU introduced the latest and arguably toughest round of sanctions against him and his government.

These western sanctions came after the Lukashenka government on 23rd Sofia Sapega.

Lithuania is a strong supporter of the democratic opponents of Lukashenka and offers shelter to many people who have fled Belarus, including opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

Latvia, which also borders Belarus, declared a state of emergency earlier this month after seeing an increase in illegal migrant transfers.

With coverage from AP, Reuters and AFP
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