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Freedoms restricted as state of emergency declared in eastern Poland

02.09.2021 22:30
Personal freedoms will be temporarily restricted in 183 towns and villages in eastern Poland after the country declared a state of emergency amid a surge in illegal migration, a government official said on Thursday.
Polish Deputy Interior Minister Maciej Wąsik.
Polish Deputy Interior Minister Maciej Wąsik.Photo: PAP/Tomasz Gzell

Deputy Interior Minister Maciej Wąsik was speaking after President Andrzej Duda imposed a state of emergency in parts of two regions along the country's eastern border with Belarus, at the request of the government.

The unprecedented move is expected to give authorities broader powers to monitor and control the movement of people. The new rules will cover 183 towns and villages in the eastern Podlaskie and Lubelskie regions and will be in effect for 30 days, beginning Friday, September 3, Wąsik told reporters.

Detailing the measures, he said they meant a suspension of public gatherings, mass events, as well art shows and entertainment functions in areas along the border.

Moreover, the state of emergency means a ban on the recording and photographing of border infrastructure and personnel, soldiers and police officers, Wąsik added.

It will also be harder to access information about local policies to protect the state border, as well as practices to prevent and counteract illegal migration, according to Wąsik.

Finally, Wąsik said, people will be asked to stay away from the area, unless they live or work there, are rescue or medical workers, come for study or health purposes, are travelling to or from a border crossing, or attend official ceremonies such as church services, weddings and funerals.

Outsiders will be able to visit close relatives in the area, but will have to show their IDs, Wąsik also said.

The state of emergency comes in the wake of mounting tensions between EU members Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, on the one hand, and Belarus, on the other.

Warsaw, Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn have all accused Minsk of orchestrating an influx of illegal migrants from countries including Iraq and Afghanistan as a form of "hybrid warfare."

Poland began building a barbed-wire fence last week along the border in a bid to stem the flow of migrants from countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan crossing from Belarus.

Police stand guard on Poland's eastern border with Belarus amid a migrant crisis. Police stand guard on Poland's eastern border with Belarus amid a migrant crisis. Photo: PAP/Artur Reszko

The Polish government spokesman on Thursday said the country was under "real threat" at its border with Belarus.

"We are under real threat, both in terms of the migration flows orchestrated by" Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko, "but also because of upcoming Russian-Belarusian military exercises, which pose a real danger," the spokesman, Piotr Müller, told state broadcaster TVP.

Poland's Interior Minister Mariusz Kamiński on Thursday vowed to safeguard the security of citizens living near the country's border with Belarus amid the migrant crisis.

EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson has said the standoff between Poland and Belarus "is not a migration issue, but part of the aggression" of Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko "toward Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, with the aim to destabilize" the European Union.


Source: PAP