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Hundreds try to cross Polish border as migrant crisis continues: officials

18.11.2021 12:30
Polish authorities on Thursday said that a group of some 200 migrants tried to forcibly cross the border from Belarus overnight and other attempts were also made as migrant pressure continued unabated.
Anna Michalska, spokeswoman for the Polish Border Guard.
Anna Michalska, spokeswoman for the Polish Border Guard.Photo: PAP/Wojciech Olkuśnik

On Wednesday evening, a group of around 500 migrants gathered on the Belarusian side of the fence, with 200 of them trying to force their way through the frontier, near the Polish village of Dubicze Cerkiewne, a spokeswoman for Poland's Border Guard service told reporters. 

The migrants were "very aggressive," throwing rocks, fire crackers and other objects at Polish officers, Anna Michalska said, as quoted by the state PAP news agency.

Meanwhile, "a dozen or so Belarusian soldiers remained on the Belarusian side" as "shots could be heard, including from a flare gun," Michalska added.

Poland's defence ministry reported via Twitter that about 100 migrants had been detained.

It also posted footage showing a large group of migrants in coats and with backpacks, gathered in the woods under the supervision of Belarus officials, the PAP news agency reported.

The attempt at illegal crossing near Dubicze Cerkiewne had been overseen by Belarusian security officials, who forced migrants to throw rocks at Polish officials, the ministry also said.

Elsewhere, there were other attempts by large groups to breach the border, including near the village of Połowce, where police said 70 officers had to intervene, while in Sławatycze three individuals tried to traverse the border river Bug in a pontoon, with a further 20 people waiting on the shore, the Border Guard's Michalska told reporters. 

Migrant crisis

The migrant crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border has escalated in recent days, with Poland, the European Union and its member states, as well as NATO and the United States accusing Alexander Lukashenko, the autocratic leader of Belarus, of orchestrating the standoff in retaliation for Western sanctions against his regime.

EU foreign ministers on Monday gave the green light for a widening of the sanctions in response to Minsk's actions.

Lukashenko has denied luring vulnerable people, including Kurds from the Middle East, with the false promise of easy access to the EU and sending them across the bloc's border.

Tensions at Polish-Belarusian border 

Poland's Border Guard said on Thursday it had recorded more than 500 illegal attempts to cross from Belarus over the past 24 hours. Since the start of the year, almost 34,000 such attempts have been recorded, including 5,500 this month alone, the agency's data showed.

On Tuesday, the border standoff turned violent as migrants pelted Polish forces with rocks and stun grenades near the checkpoint in Kuźnica, officials told reporters.

Since September 2, Warsaw has kept the border zone under a state of emergency in the face of the migrant pressure.

Poland plans to build a solid fence along the Belarus frontier, crowned with barbed wire and fitted with electronic surveillance devices. The protective wall is due to be ready by mid-2022.

EU, NATO, US, UN nations condemn Belarus

The United States has called on Russia to use its influence over Belarus "to cease its callous exploitation and coercion of vulnerable people," White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said this week amid the deepening migrant crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border.

US State Secretary Antony Blinken at the weekend reaffirmed America's support for Poland amid the crisis on the EU member's border with Belarus.

The United States and European members of the UN Security Council last week condemned Belarus for the “orchestrated instrumentalization" of migrants as tensions rose along the Polish-Belarusian border.

The Polish prime minister has said that NATO must take steps to help resolve the crisis on the Belarus border, adding that Poland and the Baltic states of Lithuania and Latvia may ask for consultations under Article 4 of the alliance's treaty.

Poland's envoy to the United Nations, Krzysztof Szczerski, has warned that the international community needs to act before the deepening migrant crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border spins out of control, undermining the security and stability of the region.

Polish lawmakers on Wednesday passed legislation to strengthen the country's frontiers amid simmering tensions on the border with Belarus.


Source: IAR, PAP