Poland plans fence at Belarusian border, offers aid to migrants

WARSAW, Poland (AP) – Poland plans to build a fence along its border with Belarus and deploy more troops there to prevent migrants seeking to enter the country from the European Union.

The government also offered on Monday to send humanitarian aid to a group of migrants who have been stranded at the border for more than two weeks.

Poland and the three Baltic states – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – accuse Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of sending migrants across their borders, which are also part of the EU’s eastern border, in what ‘they call it a’ hybrid war ‘. The migrants are mostly from Afghanistan and Iraq.

The four EU countries believe that the increase in the number of migrants is Minsk’s revenge for the EU’s sanctions against the autocratic regime in Belarus.

“Using immigrants to destabilize neighboring countries constitutes a flagrant violation of international law and constitutes a hybrid attack against … Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and therefore against the whole of the European Union,” they said on Monday in a joint press release.

From Geneva, UN Refugee Agency spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo said the organization was monitoring the situation closely.

“We have been very concerned about developments at the borders resulting in people being blocked for days,” Mantoo said.

The Polish government said last week that 2,100 migrants had attempted to enter Poland illegally from Belarus so far in August. Almost 800 of them entered and were placed in state-run centers.

In response to the arrival of the migrants, Poland said it had deployed more than 900 troops to the border with Belarus and was strengthening the border with 150 kilometers (93 miles) of barbed wire. On Monday, Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said more troops would be sent and that a 2.5-meter (8-foot) high fence would be erected at the border.

Blaszczak said the new border fence would be modeled after that erected by Hungary against migrants years ago at its border with Serbia, which is reinforced with coils of razor wire.

“We are dealing with an attack on Poland. It is an attempt to trigger a migration crisis, ”he said at a press conference at the border.

Noting that the Lukashenko regime has ties to the Kremlin, Blaszczak said: “We will not allow the creation of a route for the transfer of migrants via Poland to the European Union.

Meanwhile, political tensions are growing in Poland over 30 migrants stranded at the border with Belarus. A refugee rights group says the group includes Afghans and others in need of medical attention. Poland insists they are on Belarusian territory, but has always been criticized for not allowing migrants to seek asylum.

On Monday, the Polish Foreign Ministry said it submitted a diplomatic note to Belarus offering to provide food and medicine to the group, as well as tents, beds, sleeping bags, blankets and pajamas.

Lukashenko, who had reached a deal with the EU to stem illegal immigration in response to Western sanctions, attacked Polish authorities on Monday for using force to push migrants back to Belarus.

“They caught 50 people heading towards Germany … and pushed them to the border with Belarus, firing shots in the air,” Lukashenko said.

In Warsaw, around two dozen demonstrators chained themselves to a fence in front of the border guard headquarters and placed barbed wire on its gates to protest the behavior of Polish authorities along the border.

Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski said the border situation was testing how the country would respond to more serious acts of Hybrid War.

“The statements and behavior of a significant number of Polish politicians, journalists and NGO activists show that a scenario in which a foreign country carrying out such an attack on Poland will receive the support of allies in our country is real, ”Jablonski said on Twitter. .

He said the authorities should use this situation to “better prepare for similar threatening actions in the future.”

Lithuania has experienced similar tensions triggered by a wave of migrants at its border.

“Lukashenko is not only using migrants as a hybrid weapon to take revenge on the West, he is trying to provoke division and an internal political crisis in Poland and Lithuania,” said independent Belarusian political scientist Valery Karbalevich. “Lukashenko is playing a dangerous game, trying to test the limits of the patience of the West.”

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Jamey Keaten in Geneva and Yuras Karmanau in Kiev, Ukraine contributed to this report.

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Follow all of AP’s Belarus stories at https://apnews.com/hub/Belarus.

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Follow all of AP’s stories on global migration at https://apnews.com/hub/migration.

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