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English Section

Polish senators back plan to build wall on Belarus border

28.10.2021 08:00
Polish senators have approved a government plan to build a wall on the country's border with Belarus in a bid to stave off an influx of migrants from the Middle East.
The upper house of Polands parliament in session in Warsaw on Wednesday.
The upper house of Poland's parliament in session in Warsaw on Wednesday. Photo: PAP/Mateusz Marek

The measure passed in a 52-46 vote with one abstention in the upper house of parliament late on Wednesday, Poland’s PAP news agency reported.

The legislation, which was earlier backed by the lower chamber of Poland's bicameral parliament, now reverts to the lower house for a final vote after the Senate made a number of modifications to the proposal.

The plan for a wall along Poland's border with Belarus is then expected to go to President Andrzej Duda for signing into law.

The government this month adopted a bill to construct a "permanent barrier" along Poland's eastern border with Belarus amid what officials said was a growing migrant surge.

The wall is expected to cost PLN 1.6 billion (EUR, 350 million, USD 410 million) and take months to build, according to officials.

Interior Minister Mariusz Kamiński said this month that the Polish border service "has been dealing with increasing migrant pressures" on the border with Belarus for several months.

"Despite the deployment of additional personnel and assistance from soldiers and police, as well as the use of temporary installations, we have not seen a decrease in the number of attempts to cross the Polish-Belarusian border," Kamiński said, as quoted by the PAP news agency.

"Therefore, urgent measures need to be taken to build a solid, high wall, equipped with a monitoring and movement detection system," he told reporters, adding that "such border security measures have worked for other countries and have proven to be an effective solution in the fight against illegal migration."

Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak has told public broadcaster Polish Radio that Poland plans to draw on the experience of Hungary, which constructed a permanent wall on its border with Serbia during a migrant crisis in 2015.

Poland and the Baltic states have accused Belarus's strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko of organising a wave of illegal migrants seeking to enter the bloc as part of what officials have called a "hybrid war."

The EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, visited Poland in late September, agreeing with Warsaw’s arguments that “firm steps” were needed against Belarus, according to officials.

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said earlier this month that his country enjoyed full support within the European Union as it worked to defend itself against a migrant influx and a "hybrid war" being waged by Belarus.

Late last month, Polish lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to extend a state of emergency in parts of two regions along the country's eastern border with Belarus by two months amid a growing migrant surge.

The state of emergency gives authorities broader powers to monitor and control the movement of people on the Polish-Belarusian border, which is also the eastern border of the European Union.

(gs)

Source: IAR, PAP