Poland sees migrant surge at border, accuses Belarus of 'state terrorism'
Publicado: 10/11/2021

Poland sees migrant surge at border, accuses Belarus of 'state terrorism'

Sokolka (Poland) (AFP) -

EU and NATO member Poland said Wednesday it had seen a surge in attempts to breach its border and pushed back hundreds of migrants to Belarus, accusing Minsk of 'state terrorism' by provoking a new migrant crisis in Europe.

Concern was growing for more than 2,000 migrants -- mainly Kurds from the Middle East -- who are trapped at the border, with the UN calling their plight 'intolerable' and demanding action.

Western governments accuse Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko of luring them to his country and sending them to cross into Poland in retaliation for sanctions.

'What we are facing here, we must be clear, is a manifestation of state terrorism,' Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters in Warsaw at a press conference with visiting EU chief Charles Michel.

Michel said new sanctions against Belarus 'are on the table' and that EU members would consult on the issue on Monday.

Migrants have been trying to cross the border for months but the crisis reached a new level when hundreds made a concerted effort on Monday and were pushed back by Polish borders guards.

They set up a camp on the border, living in tents and burning wood from local forests to keep warm, blocked by Polish guards behind razor-wire.

- 'Desperate situation' -

'I am appalled that large numbers of migrants and refugees continue to be left in a desperate situation in near-freezing temperatures at the Belarus-Poland border,' UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said in Geneva.

She urged the countries involved 'to take immediate steps to de-escalate and resolve this intolerable situation.'

Polish officials said Wednesday there had been a spike in attempted crossings in the previous 24 hours, with several hundred migrants breaching the border before being caught and sent back.

'The situation is not calm,' Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak told Polish radio.

'Now we are dealing with smaller groups, although numerous, which are simultaneously attacking the Polish border in several places,' he said.

The defence ministry said Belarus was using intimidation to force migrants to breach the border, tweeting two short videos that it said showed a shot fired on the Belarusian side by a man in uniform.

Blaszczak said on Twitter that 15,000 troops had been deployed along with police and border guards 'to protect our homeland from the attack of the Lukashenko regime.'

Belarus has levelled its own accusations against Poland, saying Warsaw is violating international norms by blocking the migrants and beating them back with violence.

Journalists have been blocked from areas close to the border, but in the nearby Polish town of Sokolka AFP reporters saw a patrol stopping vehicles to check the trunks for migrants, as well as several military trucks and police vans driving out of the town.

The European Union, NATO and the United States have all said Lukashenko is provoking the crisis in response to Western sanctions imposed over his heavy crackdown on the opposition following a disputed election last year.

- Calls for Russia 'to use influence' -

Poland has gone a step further, saying Lukashenko's main backer, Russian President Vladimir Putin, is masterminding the crisis.

After a similar demand from the European Union, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Putin on Wednesday asking him 'to use his influence' with Minsk stop what she called an 'inhumane' instrumentalisation of migrants.

Belarus and Moscow have hit back at the accusations, saying the West should deal with migrant flows caused by its military interventions in the Middle East.

The Kremlin said it was 'irresponsible' for Poland to blame Putin for the crisis, while Belarus's foreign minister said the EU was causing the crisis because it wanted a reason to impose new sanctions.

'The migrant crisis was provoked by the EU itself and its states that border Belarus,' Vladimir Makei said on a visit to Moscow to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday.

Lavrov accused Western institutions of mounting an 'anti-Belarusian campaign', and said Russia and Belarus had 'closely coordinated our approaches' to countering it.

In a show of force, Russia's defence ministry said two of its Tu-22M3 long-range bombers had flown over Belarus Wednesday as part of longstanding efforts at military integration.

Thousands of migrants have crossed or attempted to cross from Belarus into the eastern EU member states of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in recent months.

Lithuanian lawmakers voted Tuesday to impose a state of emergency along the Belarus border, effective from midnight.

At least 10 migrants have died in the region, seven of them on the Polish side of the border, according to the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza.

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