Poland detains 100 migrants, G7 urges Belarus to end crisis
Publicado: 18/11/2021

Poland detains 100 migrants, G7 urges Belarus to end crisis

Sokolka (Poland) (AFP) -

The Polish army detained dozens of migrants who crossed the Belarus border and accused Belarusian special forces of masterminding the operation, as G7 foreign ministers on Thursday urged Minsk to end the migrant crisis.

Thousands of people, mainly from the Middle East, are camped out or staying close to the Poland-Belarus border in dire conditions and desperate to cross into the European Union, in a crisis that began over the summer.

The EU says Belarus engineered the crisis in retaliation for sanctions on the ex-Soviet country. Minsk and its main ally Russia have rejected the charges and criticised the EU for not taking in the migrants seeking to cross over.

'We call on the regime to cease immediately its aggressive and exploitative campaign,' the EU and foreign ministers of the G7 global powers said.

'We are united in our solidarity with Poland, as well as Lithuania and Latvia, who have been targeted by this provocative use of irregular migration as a hybrid tactic.'

- Repatriation flight -

Belarus has said it wants to de-escalate the crisis and is facilitating a voluntary repatriation flight to Iraq that is due to take off later on Thursday with up to 300 people on board.

In the latest border incident, the Polish defence ministry said that Belarusian forces had first carried out reconnaissance and 'most likely' damaged the barbed wire fence along the border.

'Then the Belarusians forced the migrants to throw stones at Polish soldiers to distract them. The attempt to cross the border took place several hundred metres away,' it said.

'A group of about 100 migrants was detained,' it said, charging that 'Belarusian special forces led yesterday's attack'.

Video footage released by the defence ministry appeared to show Polish soldiers surrounding a large group of migrants crouched down in a wooded area at night next to some barbed wire.

The incident could not be independently verified as journalists are not allowed in the immediate border area on the Polish side.

- EU-Belarus 'technical talks' -

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has cracked down on political opponents and independent media for nearly three decades, has spoken twice to German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the crisis in recent days.

Lukashenko's press service on Wednesday said the Belarus leader and Merkel 'agreed that the problem as a whole will be brought up to the level of Belarus and the EU.

'Relevant officials, to be determined from both sides, will immediately start negotiations to resolve the existing problems,' it said.

An EU spokesman said there were 'technical talks' and urged Minsk to grant humanitarian access to the border area.

The Polish government has warned against any agreement on the crisis that might be struck 'over our heads'.

But Russia has welcomed the direct contact between the EU and Belarus, denying any involvement in the crisis.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday that Europe should not blame Russia for 'all troubles', as tensions also simmer with the West over the conflict in Ukraine.

- Child's death reported -

Aid groups say at least 11 migrants have died since the crisis began in the summer.

Polish medical workers said they had assisted a Syrian couple in the early hours of Thursday who had been in the forest for one and a half months.

'Their one-year-old child died in the forest,' the Polish Center for International Aid said on Twitter.

In another incident, video footage released by Belarusian border guards showed a Lithuanian border guard dog biting a man lying on the ground in a sleeping bag.

Lithuania's boder guard admitted to the incident, saying that they were attempting to push back a group of migrants into Belarus and that border guard did not see the migrant.

Charities have called for a de-escalation and a more humanitarian response to the problem.

Poland estimates there are more than 10,000 migrants in Belarus in total, with the largest group staying close to the shut down Bruzgi-Kuznica border crossing.

The Belarusian Red Cross says around 1,000 migrants are staying in a warehouse near that crossing and 800 more are camped nearby.

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