Hundreds try to cross Belarusian border despite crisis easing
Hundreds of migrants have again attempted to cross the border from Belarus, Polish officials said on Friday, despite signs of the crisis easing after the migrants left a makeshift encampment.
Border guards said there had been two attempted crossings on what is the eastern border of the European Union and NATO – one involving 500 migrants, some of whom threw stones and bombs tear gas.
Border guards said they detained 45 migrants.
Belarusian state news agency Belta said 2,000 migrants who had camped in freezing conditions at the border spent the night in a nearby warehouse after leaving their camp.
Belta posted photos of the migrants lying on mats at the facility and wrote that “for many it was their first hot night.”
The West accuses Belarus of artificially creating a migration crisis by bringing in potential migrants and bringing them to the border with the promise of easy passage to the EU.
Belarus denied this and urged the EU to welcome them.
Minsk said on Thursday that there were a total of around 7,000 migrants in the former Soviet country.
He said he would take responsibility for returning around 5,000 of these migrants home and said the EU would create a “humanitarian corridor” to Germany for around 2,000 migrants.
But Germany was quick to dismiss the claim, saying it was not true that it would take in 2,000 migrants.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Iraqis who had failed to enter the EU from Belarus returned home Thursday on the first repatriation flight organized by Baghdad.
An Iraqi Airways plane brought 431 people home.
– “More aggressive” crossing attempts –
Despite the repatriations, Poland said pressure at the border continued.
“There are still attempts by migrants to cross the border illegally,” said Marek Pietrzak, spokesman for the Polish Territorial Defense Forces, which have soldiers at the border.
“We can see how they are inspired and supervised by officers of the Belarusian border guards and other Belarusian uniformed services,” he told TV Republika.
Border guards said on Twitter Friday that “two large groups attempted to cross.”
“People from the largest group of about 500 threw stones and someone also threw tear gas at Polish officials. At the same time, Belarusian personnel were using lasers to blind them,” he told ‘AFP border guard spokeswoman Anna Michalska.
She said four Polish soldiers suffered injuries that did not require hospitalization.
Michalska said there had been fewer attempted border breaches compared to last month, but the most recent “have become more aggressive”.
– “Effort to militarize migration” –
The EU and the US this week announced new sanctions against the Belarusian regime, which has crushed the political opposition and independent media since a contested presidential election last year.
The EU and the foreign ministers of the G7 world powers called on the Lukashenko regime “to immediately cease its campaign of aggression and exploitation”.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters during a visit to Nigeria that the United States could add to sanctions already imposed on the country.
“This effort to militarize migration must stop,” he said. “First and foremost, he does a terrible injustice to those people he victimized by making them pawns.”
Polish media say at least 11 migrants have died since the crisis began this summer.
A medical charity said Thursday it had come to the aid of a Syrian couple who reported that their one-year-old child had died in the forest.
bur-dt / mas / gw