Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Tensions rise on Poland-Belarus border as Warsaw protests infiltrate

As accusations rage on, Belarus summoned Poland’s top diplomat in Minsk earlier this week to protest claims made by Warsaw that Belarusian border guards had threatened to shoot at Polish patrols .

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry said the Polish allegations were baseless and accused Poland of engaging in “megaphone diplomacy” and issuing “radical statements to the media”.

Amid rising tensions between the two countries over the use of Belarus, with the encouragement of Minsk, mainly by expatriates from Iraq, as a transit point by expatriates, Poland’s foreign ministry on Tuesday sent Belarus’ top diplomat to Belarusian guards in Warsaw. Called to complain about crossing into Poland. The attack is believed to have happened on Monday.

Poland’s security services spokesman Stanisaw Zarin said Belarusians encroached 300 meters into Poland and were confronted by Polish patrols. The Belarusians “reloaded their weapons and then left,” Zarin said.

Poland, Lithuania and Latvia are militarizing their borders with Belarus to try to stop the record number of migrants crossing their borders. He accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of orchestrating migrant crossings as a “hybrid war” against the European Union in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Belarus in last year’s disputed elections. Those elections were widely seen as rigged, and demonstrators challenging the legitimacy of Lukashenko’s regime were severely cracked down on.

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The European Union, the United States and Britain also imposed sanctions in June targeting 86 officials and Belarusian state-owned entities, in response to the forced landing of a Ryanair plane in Belarusian airspace, which Lukashenko Taking the critic.

‘We are compelled to react’

Lukashenko has half-heartedly denied he was trying to needle or blackmail Europe by trying to fuel a migrant crisis, but said he was reacting to foreign pressure. “We are not blackmailing anyone with illegal immigrants,” he told reporters at the Independence Palace in Minsk in August. “We are not threatening anyone. But you have put us in such a situation that we are compelled to react. And we are responding.”

FILE – Syrian migrants Sarah, 26, and Hassan, 24, sit on the ground in the woods after crossing the Belarusian-Polish border during the migrant crisis in Levos, Poland, October 29, 2021.

In October alone, Poland recorded 15,000 attempts at illegal border crossings. Last week Poland deployed 2,500 more troops to the border, raising the number of troops bolstering the country’s border guards to 10,000.

A deputy foreign minister, Piotr Wawrczyk, said: “There are clear signs of a deliberate escalation in the actions taken by the Belarusian authorities in recent weeks.” He told The Associated Press this week that there was “a series of incidents and provocations organized by Belarusians”, but described the crossing of the border by Belarusian guards as “the most dangerous incident ever”.

Lithuanian officials also accused Lukashenko of “arming” migrants and being behind Iraqi and Syrian asylum seekers trying to cross their borders illegally.

Earlier this year, he said Belarus’ state-owned tourism agency was organizing flights from Baghdad and Istanbul to Minsk for expatriates, charging them from $1,800 to $12,000, and then sending them to the main Wildly is handing over to the Belarusian border guards to carry in the 680-kilometer border Lithuania shares with Belarus.

Lithuania this week finished the first parts of a razor-wire-topped steel wall it plans to expand along most of its border with Belarus. It has allocated $175 million for the project and plans to complete it in a year’s time.

Poland and Latvia have also laid coiled razor wire along their borders to deter migrants. Polish officials, who accuse Belarusian border guards of cutting wires, are preparing for even bigger asylum seekers.

Belarusian journalist Tadeusz Gizhan reported last week that Minsk International Airport published a new schedule for the coming winter “according to which at least 55 aircraft will fly from the Middle East to Minsk every week.”

FILE - WITH ROAD SIGN "area covered by state of emergency" Novosady is seen near the Belarusian-Polish border in Poland, October 12, 2021.

FILE – A road sign with “The area covered by a state of emergency” is seen near the Belarusian-Polish border in Novosady, Poland, October 12, 2021.

formal protest

Rising tensions on the Poland-Belarus border have seen the foreign ministry summon the Belarusian charge d’affaires in Warsaw three times so far to hand over formal diplomatic protests to the Poles.

Relations are soured by a growing crisis between EU member states and Poland over how to handle asylum seekers. According to analyst Elizabeth Brough of the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based think tank, he fits into Lukashenko’s form of a “sinister game.”

“The Belarusian ruler knows that immigration is a hugely divisive issue within the EU and within individual EU member states. Poland’s strategy to push migrants back into Belarus has already caused a rift with Brussels – and this Kind of worsened Poland’s already strained relationship with the EU headquarters,” she wrote in a commentary to the news site Defense One.

EU officials say Poland is violating international norms by trying to repatriate migrants to Belarus and is obliged to provide them with protection.

Poland has declared a state of emergency along part of its border with Belarus, preventing journalists and NGO workers from monitoring what is happening in an exclusion zone in the Podlasie forests. NGOs say they urgently need to gain access to militarized territory in the Polish part of the border and have accused Poland of using migrants as political weapons.

Eight migrants have so far died trying to cross the border, the latest being a 19-year-old Syrian man whose body was fished out of the Bug River by divers on October 21. “Shameful things are happening at the Polish-Belarusian border,” said the Polish refugee charity Fundacja Ocalenie, or the Salvation Foundation.

FILE - Migrants are pictured in their camp in an image taken by a migrant who announced they were located on the Belarusian side of the border with Poland in this October 27, 2021 photo, a relative of migrants in Poland provided by.

FILE – Migrants are pictured in their camp in an image taken by a migrant who announced they were located on the Belarusian side of the border with Poland in this October 27, 2021 photo, a relative of migrants in Poland provided by.

‘Illegal and inhumane treatment’

In a letter in September to the EU’s commissioner for home affairs, Ylva Johansson, the charity said it had documented “several illegal and inhumane behavior of Polish officials” at the border.

These included denying migrants the right to apply for international protection, encircling migrants in Polish territory and “illegally taking them back to the border and forcing them to cross the border back to Belarus”. The charity said migrants were sometimes deposited in dangerous areas, such as marshes, “exposing these people, including young children, to life-threatening conditions.”

Fundacja Ocalenie said it and other humanitarian organizations had been denied the opportunity to provide aid to migrants stranded in a no-man’s land between the borders, with dozens of Afghans camping in the Usnarz Gorny area.

Rights organization Amnesty International has also complained about 17 Afghans being violently pushed back into Belarus by Polish guards at the border.

Two former Polish officials, Adam Bodnar, a former ombudsman from Poland, and Agnieszka Grzelk, who served as deputy director of the Department of Constitutional, European and International Law in the office of the ombudsman, called on Thursday from Brussels to intervene with Warsaw. requested. , “The EU cannot sit until migrants die at the Belarusian border.”

Writing in a news site Politico.eu, he said: “A few days ago, a former colleague of the Office of the Ombudsman took a three-year-old child in his arms from the woods. If he had not met and looked after him, or force border guards to register him, the child and his family would have been pushed back from Polish territory without security guarantees by the Belarusian authorities.”

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This article is republished from – Voa News – Read the – original article.

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