Hundreds try to cross EU border despite easing of crisis
Publicado: 19/11/2021

Hundreds try to cross EU border despite easing of crisis

Sokolka (Poland) (AFP) -

Hundreds of migrants have again tried to cross the border from Belarus into Poland, Warsaw said Friday, despite signs of the crisis easing after migrants left a makeshift encampment.

Polish border guards said there were attempted crossings by two groups on what is the eastern border of the European Union and NATO -- one involving 500 migrants, some of whom threw rocks and tear gas canisters.

The border guards said they had detained 45 migrants.

Belarusian state news agency Belta said 2,000 migrants who had been camped out in freezing conditions on the border spent the night in a nearby warehouse after clearing out of their camp.

Belta published photos of the migrants lying on mats in the facility and wrote that 'for several it was their first warm night'.

The West accuses Belarus of artificially creating a crisis by bringing in would-be migrants and taking them to the border with promises of an easy crossing into the EU.

Belarus has denied this and urged the EU to take them in.

On Friday, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko spoke to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, with the allies stressing 'the importance of the establishment of cooperation between Minsk and the EU to resolve the problem,' according to the Kremlin.

- 'Pushbacks must end' -

The Council of Europe human rights commissioner Dunja Mijatovic called the humanitarian situation along the border 'alarming' and demanded an end to Poland's controversial returns of migrants back to Belarus.

'I have personally listened to the appalling accounts of extreme suffering from desperate people... who spent weeks or even months in squalid and extreme conditions in the cold and wet woods due to these pushbacks,' she said in a statement after a four-day mission to Poland.

'All pushbacks must end immediately.'

She also called on Poland to allow rights activists and media 'immediate and unimpeded access to all areas along the border'.

Belarus said Thursday that there were a total of around 7,000 migrants in the ex-Soviet country.

It said that it would take responsibility for sending around 5,000 of those migrants home and claimed that the EU would create a 'humanitarian corridor' to Germany for around 2,000.

But Germany swiftly shot down that claim, saying it was not true that it would take in 2,000 migrants.

Meanwhile hundreds of Iraqis who had failed to cross into the EU from Belarus returned home on Thursday on the first repatriation flight organised by Baghdad.

Despite the repatriations, Poland said pressure on the border was continuing.

'There are still attempts by migrants to cross the border illegally,' said Marek Pietrzak, spokesman of Poland's Territorial Defence Force, which has soldiers on the border.

- 'More aggressive' crossing attempts -

Border guard spokeswoman Anna Michalska told AFP on Friday about an incident late on Thursday involving around 500 migrants.

'People in the largest group... threw rocks and someone also hurled tear gas at Polish officials. At the same time the Belarusian personnel were using lasers to blind them,' said

She said four Polish soldiers had sustained injuries that did not require hospitalisation.

Michalska said there were fewer attempted breaches at the border compared to last month, but the more recent ones 'have become more aggressive'.

On Friday, Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak tweeted that Warsaw was 'happy to accept Estonia's proposal' to send 100 troops to the border to help counter the crisis.

The EU and US this week announced fresh sanctions on the Belarusian regime, which has crushed political opposition and independent media since a disputed presidential election last year.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on a visit to Nigeria that the US could add to sanctions already imposed on Belarus.

'This effort to weaponise migration has to stop,' he said. 'First and foremost, it is doing a terrible injustice to these people that it has victimised by making them pawns.'

Polish media say at least 11 migrants have died since the crisis began over the summer.

A medical charity on Thursday said it had come to the aid of a Syrian couple who reported their one-year-old child had died in the forest.

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