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English Section

UPDATE: Polish PM urges solidarity amid migrant surge

06.09.2021 17:40
Poland's prime minister on Monday called for cross-party solidarity amid a crisis on the country's eastern border with Belarus.
Polands Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Interior Minister Mariusz Kamiński and Border Guard chief Tomasz Praga attend a news conference in Warsaw on Monday.
Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Interior Minister Mariusz Kamiński and Border Guard chief Tomasz Praga attend a news conference in Warsaw on Monday.Photo: PAP/Piotr Nowak

Mateusz Morawiecki made the appeal as Polish lawmakers were due to debate a decree by President Andrzej Duda declaring a state of emergency in parts of two regions bordering Belarus.

"We don't need to agree on everything, but for God's sake, we should all be protecting the Polish border," Morawiecki said.

Ahead of the parliamentary debate, he called on all political groupings "to act with solidarity and responsibility in the face of the difficult situation on the eastern frontier."

'New provocations' every day

"Every day on the border brings new Belarusian provocations, and there have been hundreds of them," Morawiecki stated, adding that Polish border guards have thwarted over 4,000 illegal attempts to enter the country since the beginning of August.

He accused the authorities in Minsk of orchestrating the migrant surge.

"Not an hour passes without the Belarus authorities transferring migrants to the Polish border, from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Egypt, Somalia--anywhere they can attract them," Morawiecki told a news conference.

'Organised effort by Belarusian security forces'

He argued that a group of asylum seekers camping near the Polish village of Usnarz Górny on the Belarus border was "a smokescreen for an organised effort by Belarusian security forces."

"They had planned to create many more such places," he told reporters.

A group of some 30 Afghan migrants have been stuck for days near the Polish village of Usnarz Górny, with Belarus blocking their retreat and Poland refusing to let them into its territory, news agencies reported.

Morawiecki told reporters that Belarusian officials were providing the arriving immigrants with food and helping them cross illegally into Poland.

He added that Polish authorities were detaining "individuals who work with the regime of" Belarus' strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko "and who are trying to transfer migrants into Poland by illegal means."

"We appeal to Belarus authorities to stop these attempts and accept our humanitarian aid," the Polish prime minister also said.

Morawiecki announced at the end of last month that Belarus had refused to let in a Polish convoy with humanitarian aid for migrants.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki speaks at a news conference in Warsaw on Monday. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki speaks at a news conference in Warsaw on Monday. Photo: PAP/Piotr Nowak

Thousands seeking to 'be smuggled into EU' from Belarus

Meanwhile, Morawiecki's interior minister, Mariusz Kamiński, told reporters on Monday that the biggest group among the asylum seekers were Iraqis “flown into Minsk on tourist visas from Baghdad.”

“The average price for being smuggled into the EU is several thousand dollars,” Kamiński estimated.

Gen. Tomasz Praga, chief of Poland's Border Guard, said that more than 10,000 migrants could be intent on reaching the European Union from Belarus.

He told reporters that attempts at illegal entry were growing and that criminal gangs were involved in trying to transport migrants further west from Poland.

Praga thanked local residents for providing law enforcers with information “about strangers appearing in the borderland.”

The Polish prime minister said that the border situation was further complicated by upcoming Russian-Belarusian military exercises called Zapad 2021.

The maneuvers are scheduled to take place from September 10 to 16, featuring some 200,000 soldiers, public broadcaster Polish Radio’s IAR news agency reported. 

Morawiecki said the exercises could lead to “provocations in the borderland.”

He added that the state of emergency, declared by the Polish president for 30 days in parts of two regions along the Belarus border, could help prevent such incidents.

(pm/gs)

Source: IAR, PAP, niezalezna.pl