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I UNDERSTAND
English Section

Migrant crisis biggest 'blast from the East' in decades: Polish PM

09.11.2021 21:00
Poland's prime minister on Tuesday told parliament that a migrant crisis on his country's border with Belarus was the biggest "blast from the East" and the most serious security risk facing Poland in decades.
Polands Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki speaks in parliament on Tuesday.
Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki speaks in parliament on Tuesday.Photo: PAP/Paweł Supernak

Mateusz Morawiecki appeared before MPs as the lower house of parliament held an emergency sitting to discuss the migrant crisis at the Belarus border. 

"It's the first time in 30 years where the security and integrity of our frontiers are being so brutally attacked and tested," Morawiecki said, amid a continued migrant surge at the Belarus border.

"It's not just that violence is being used at our eastern border, against the sovereign Polish state," he told the house. "A spectacle is being staged there in order to disrupt our border, to foment chaos in Poland and the European Union," he said, as quoted by Poland's PAP news agency.

Belarus 'using people as human shields'

Morawiecki added that "it's Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko who is moving migrants to our eastern frontier," and "using these people as human shields."

He also told MPs that Lukashenko was "merely doing the bidding of his protector," Russian President Vladimir Putin, who he said was seeking to rebuild his country's international standing. 

Morawiecki appealed to all parliamentary groupings for unity in the face of the border crisis, as otherwise "it will be easy to break us and interfere with our sovereignty," he warned.

'We must be ready for the unknown'

"This could be a turning point in Polish history," Morawiecki also said.

"We must be ready to counteract the tactics which we know will be employed, as well as those which are not expected; we must be ready for the unknown," he added, as quoted by PAP.

'Sternest test in decades': defence minister

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak told lawmakers that the mounting migrant crisis was "the sternest test" for Polish law enforcement agencies "in decades."

According to Błaszczak, the 13,000 troops deployed at the Belarus frontier, together with border guards and police, "are passing this test with flying colours," the PAP news agency reported.

Interior Minister Mariusz Kamiński told MPs that the groups of illegal migrants gathered at the border totalled between 2,000 and 4,000 people.

He warned that they could soon make another attempt to storm the Polish frontier.

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

EU, NATO, US condemn 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," with its Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg voicing solidarity with Poland amid the border standoff.

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, TVP Info