Thousands of migrants have amassed on the Polish border in what the country’s prime minister called “a demonstration of state terrorism” perpetrated by Belarus. (Watch Bloomberg video above)
Officials from the European Union – of which Poland is a member – have accused Belarus of “allowing asylum seekers from the Middle East to fly into his country by the thousands and then funneling them westward toward Poland, Lithuania and Latvia,” according to The New York Times.
Two groups of migrants crossed the border from Belarus into Poland but all were detained, Polish authorities say. The EU has accused Belarusian President Lukashenko of trying to create instability with a new wave of mass migration to the EU. https://t.co/2m6SCkKuHj— The Associated Press (@AP) November 10, 2021
Belarus’ authoritarian leader, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, has encouraged so-called “travel agencies” to sell packages to desperate migrants trying to flee the Middle East for Europe. The E.U. has said this scheme adopts a “inhuman, gangster-style approach.”
The BBC reports:
Migrants have described how Belarusian authorities seized their phones and pushed them towards the border fence. Overnight temperatures at the border have slumped below zero and several people have already died in recent weeks.
“Nobody is letting us get in anywhere, Belarus or Poland,” 33-year-old Shwan Kurd from Iraq told the BBC by video-call.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the migrants are being dumped at the Polish border as “quiet revenge” for Poland’s support of Belarus’ opposition party.
“It’s clear that what we are confronted with here is a demonstration of state terrorism,” he said on Tuesday. Seventeen thousand Polish troops have been dispatched to the border.
European Council President Charles Michel appeared alongside Morawiecki in Warsaw, and said Lukashenko is lashing out because the E.U. imposed sanctions of his regime following a sham election in 2020. Michel called it “shameful and unacceptable.”
Michel said the E.U. would consider financing a fence on Poland’s border with Belarus. He also said the bloc is contemplating sanctions against airlines that transport migrants to Minsk.
“This hybrid attack against Poland and the EU must stop,” he said.
Morawiecki added that Russian President Vladimir Putin supported Lukashenko’s provocations. From The Times:
“Lukashenko is the executor of the latest assault, but this assault has a sponsor who is to be found in Moscow, and this sponsor is President Putin,” Mr. Morawiecki said during an emergency debate in the Polish parliament on Tuesday.
Maria V. Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, called Poland’s allegations that Russia was behind the crisis falsehoods “beyond all possible bounds and norms.”
CNN reports on criticisms levied against Poland’s handling of the crisis:
Humanitarian groups have also previously criticized Poland’s nationalist government over its treatment of migrants at the border, where they face grueling conditions as temperatures plummet overnight and a lack of food and medical attention is available. Rights groups have also accused Polish authorities of multiple illegal pushbacks — a claim border officials have rejected, arguing instead that they are acting in accordance with government regulations.
Save the Children Europe Director Anita Bay said the situation at the border was “against EU laws and values” and that states needed to ensure the safety of migrants and refugees stuck at makeshift camps in a statement on Tuesday.
Bay said it was “unacceptable that the lives of children and their families are being used as a bargaining chip in a regional conflict” before calling on the EU to provide access “so they can request international protection.”
The U.S. has expressed support for Poland, saying in a statement on Tuesday, “The United States will continue to stand by Poland and all our partners in Europe who have been threatened by Belarus’ unacceptable actions.”