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I UNDERSTAND
English Section

Poland closes border crossing amid migrant pressure from Belarus

09.11.2021 08:30
Poland on Tuesday closed its border crossing with Belarus at Kuźnica after repeated attempts by migrants to force their way into the country, the state PAP news agency reported. 
The Poland-Belarus border crossing at Kuźnica.
The Poland-Belarus border crossing at Kuźnica.Photo: PAP/Marcin Onufryjuk

The suspension of border traffic came into force at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, with travellers asked to use the crossings in Terespol and Bobrowniki on the country's eastern border with Belarus, the Border Guard agency said.

Border Guard officials told reporters a day earlier all road traffic in both directions would be suspended until further notice, while rail connections would continue to operate. 

Anna Michalska, the spokeswoman for the agency, said the move came after Belarusian authorities ignored requests to stop migrants from trying to illegally enter Poland.

She added Minsk had been warned that border traffic could be put on hold.

Polish lawmakers are on Tuesday set to convene for an emergency session to discuss a growing migrant crisis on the country's frontier with eastern neighbour Belarus, the state PAP news agency reported.

Polish border guards, police and soldiers on Monday thwarted several attempts by migrants to forcibly enter the country via Belarus, government officials said, as the border crisis escalated.

Piotr Müller, the spokesman for the Polish government, said on Monday that "the situation on the Polish-Belarusian frontier is the most difficult since the migrant crisis began," and "unfortunately our analysis shows it is going to escalate."

"We are expecting provocations," Müller told reporters, warning that "shots could be fired in the direction of our border," PAP reported.

As Poland's leaders held crisis meetings on Monday, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said his government was focused on protecting the country's citizens and the European Union's external border amid an escalating migrant crisis manufactured by Belarus.

The United States on Monday voiced concern over "disturbing images and reports" from the Polish-Belarusian border, and condemned Belarus for "orchestrating" migrants flows to Europe.

NATO condemned the use of migrants by Belarus "as a hybrid tactic," Poland's PAP news agency reported.

Meanwhile, European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen called for EU member states to approve new sanctions against Belarus, which she said was responsible for a "hybrid attack" on the Polish border using migrants.

The European Union has accused Belarus of encouraging thousands of migrants from the Middle East and Africa to cross into EU countries via Belarus, as a form of hybrid warfare in revenge for Western sanctions on Minsk over human rights abuses, the Reuters news agency reported.

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 last 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.

In late September, 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.

(pm/gs)

Source: PAP