Migrants camp overnight at Polish border after tense day
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish police posted video early Tuesday showing a group of migrants who had camped overnight just on the far side of Poland's eastern border in Belarus. Polish riot police and coils of razor wire faced the migrants and police said the situation overnight was calm. That followed a day of heavy tensions on the border, where a large group of migrants — hundreds if not thousands of people mostly from the Middle East and encouraged by Belarus — sought to push their way into Poland. © Provided by Associated Press Migrants from the Middle East and elsewhere gather at the Belarus-Poland border near Grodno, Belarus, Monday, Nov. 8, 2021.
Thousands of migrants have set up makeshift camps in freezing conditions near the border between Poland and Belarus, as concerns over the potential for violence intensified on Tuesday. © Yuri Shamshur/TASS/ZUMA Press Temperatures dropped below zero overnight Tuesday as migrants camped out on the border of Belarus with Poland.
Poland has accused Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko of attempting to orchestrate a crisis on the European Union's eastern frontier by funneling migrants to the border in retaliation for sweeping sanctions imposed on Minsk by the bloc and other Western powers in June. Lukashenko's government has repeatedly denied the claims, blaming the West for dangerous, sometimes fatal, border crossings and poor treatment of migrants.
Poland Adds 2,000 Troops to Border Guard After Migrants Try to Enter by Force From Belarus
Officials said the Belarus government is "using them [migrants] to escalate the border crisis and provoke Poland."This announcement directly responded to a large group of migrants attempting to cross the border from Belarus. A video published by Belarusian media showed people trying to enter Poland using uprooted trees and various thrown objects. However, the Associated Press reported that there is "no way to independently verify" the events in the video due to Belarus's barring of journalists.
© Leonid Shcheglov/TASS/ZUMA Press Polish police officers stand guard at an area by the border on Monday.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki warned Tuesday that the situation was putting the security of the entire European Union at risk and again blamed Belarus for manufacturing a "hybrid attack." © Kacper Pempel/Reuters Military police conduct checks on vehicles near the border on Monday night.
"Sealing the Polish border is our national interest. But today the stability and security of the entire EU is at stake," said Morawiecki, who visited soldiers at the border on Tuesday.
"This hybrid attack of Lukashenko's regime is aimed at all of us. We will not be intimidated and will defend peace in Europe with our partners from NATO and EU," he added.
Turkey halts flights for some Mideast citizens to EU's door
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Turkey’s Civil Aviation Authority said Friday that the country is halting airline ticket sales to Iraqi, Syrian and Yemeni citizens wanting to travel to Belarus, which in recent months became a route for migrants and refugees to enter the European Union. EU leaders have put increasing pressure on airlines to stop bringing people from the Middle East to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, from where asylum-seekers seeking better lives can then travel by car to the EU's doorstep.
Polish authorities on Tuesday morning closed the Kuznica border crossing -- where huge numbers of migrants were seen congregating the day before.
Some 4,500 migrants are currently at the border near Kuznica trying to cross into Poland from Belarus, Polish border guard press officer Ewelina Szczepańska told CNN. © Michael Kappeler/Picture Alliance/Getty Images Polish army vehicles are parked along the barbed wire near the Kuznica border crossing on Tuesday.
The Belarusian State Border Committee -- which is responsible for the country's external borders -- said in a statement that there are around 2,000 migrants at the scene.
Around 14,000 Polish soldiers, police and border guards are now stationed in the area, sparking fears of a major confrontation as migrants attempt to cross into Poland. "The situation at the border is tough now, but we are prepared for it," Szczepańska said.
Poland Closes Border Checkpoint as Tensions With Belarus Escalate Over Migration Policies
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has encouraged migrants to illegally enter bordering European Union nations. For months, thousands of migrants have attempted to illegally enter Poland, many getting stuck in a swampy forested area and pushed back and forth by Polish and Belarusian forces.According to Major Katarzyna Zdanowicz from the region's border guards, about 3,000-4,000 migrants were along the border, including 800 in the vicinity of a large makeshift camp.U.N.
On Monday, Szczepańska said groups of migrants had been attempting to force their way across the border. The Polish defense ministry also tweeted Monday that there had been a mass attempt to cross and that migrants had set up a camp that was "constantly guarded by the Belarusian services." © Leonid Shcheglov/TASS/ZUMA Press Migrants carry their belongings as they make their way towards the Poland-Belarus border on Monday.
Poland, Lithuania and Latvia have seen a surge of people attempting to cross into their countries from Belarus in recent months.
The Polish border guard recorded 309 attempts to make illegal crossings Monday and 17 people were detained, Szczepańska added. Poland has stopped over 32,000 attempts to cross the border since September, from migrants mainly from Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, she said.
On Monday, Polish officials said it had mobilized thousands of additional military personnel as groups of migrants attempted to force their way across the border. Lithuania -- which neighbors both Poland and Belarus -- also announced it was redeploying troops.
How Minsk became a mecca for migrants travelling as tourists
How Minsk became a mecca for migrants travelling as touristsSULAIMANIYA, Iraq/HAJNOWKA, Poland (Reuters) - When Kamaran Mohammed travelled with his wife and three children to the Belarus capital Minsk last month from their home in northern Iraq, they went as tourists.
Dispute at the border escalates
European and NATO officials have also condemned Belarus' actions of encouraging people to cross illegally into Poland, and the wider scenes along the border.
On Tuesday, a NATO alliance official warned it "stands ready" to come to the aid of its allies and called on Belarus to "abide by international law."
The official added: "The Lukashenko regime's use of migrants as a hybrid tactic is unacceptable. The Secretary General remains in close touch with Allied governments on the issue."
NATO's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also described Minsk's actions as "unacceptable," and said he has spoken with Polish President Andrzej Duda about the situation.
Meanwhile, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, on Monday pleaded with Belarus to "stop putting people's lives at risk."
In a statement, von der Leyen warned Belarusian authorities they would not succeed in their purposes by putting pressure on the EU "through a cynical instrumentalization of migrants." She also called on member states to "approve the extended sanctions regime on the Belarusian authorities responsible for this hybrid attack."
The EU Commission President added that the bloc has already reached out to Poland, Lithuania and Latvia to discuss the best approach to the crisis.
Poland says Belarus is taking away migrants at border camp
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A Polish government official said Wednesday that migrants who have spent days in a makeshift camp on the Belarusian side of Poland's eastern border are being taken away by bus by Belarusian officials. Since Nov. 8 a large group of people from the Middle East has been stuck at a border crossing with Poland, hoping to enter Europe. Most are fleeing conflict or hopelessness at home and aim to reach Germany or other western European countries. © Provided by Associated Press Migrants settle for the night in the logistics center in the checkpoint "Kuznitsa" at the Belarus-Poland border near Grodno, Belarus, on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021.
"Vice-President Schinas, in coordination with High Representative/Vice-President Borrell, will travel in the coming days to the main countries of origin and of transit to ensure that they act to prevent their own nationals from falling into the trap set by the Belarusian authorities," she added. "The EU will in particular explore how to sanction, including through blacklisting, third country airlines that are active in human trafficking."
Von der Leyen also said the EU commission would engage with the "UN and its specialized agencies" in order to "prevent a humanitarian crisis from unfolding."
Concern grows for migrants
Amid the international criticism, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday warned Poland against provocations "directed against the Republic of Belarus to justify possible illegal forceful actions against disadvantaged unarmed people, among whom there are many underage children and women."
The Belarusian State Border Committee said in a statement Tuesday that Poland had lined up military equipment on the border.
"At the moment, a chain of Polish security forces has lined up in front of the refugee camp, equipment has been pulled together, including combat vehicles. Representatives of the media, international human rights and humanitarian organizations are not allowed to the border line from Poland to provide assistance to people seeking to apply for refugee status in the EU," the statement said.
The committee claimed some of the refugees felt unwell after the Polish side deployed tear gas followed by loudspeakers and strobe lights against them overnight. It also said there were a 'significant number' of pregnant women and babies among the migrants at the border
UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo said in a Tuesday briefing in Geneva that it was "very alarmed by the scenes that we are seeing from the Belarus-Poland border."
"We have repeatedly said that using refugees, asylum seekers and migrants to achieve political ends is unacceptable and must stop," Mantoo added.
Humanitarian groups have previously criticized Poland's nationalist government over its treatment of migrants at the border, where they face grueling conditions as temperatures plummet overnight and a lack of food and medical attention is available. Rights groups have also accused Polish authorities of multiple illegal pushbacks -- a claim border officials have rejected, arguing instead that they are acting in accordance with government regulations.
At least seven migrants have been found dead on Poland's side of the border, with reports of more deaths in Belarus, according to Reuters.
Poland: Migrant camps along Belarus border have emptied .
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish authorities said Friday there are no more migrants camping along the Belarus side of the European Union’s eastern border, but attempts at illegally crossing into the bloc’s territory are continuing and becoming more aggressive. Around 50 migrants got through a fence into Poland on Thursday, Anna Michalska, a spokeswoman for Poland’s Border Guard said. They included a family of five who said they wanted to stay and live in Poland, opening a procedure toward settlement. The others will have to return to Belarus, Michalska said. Two other large groups of migrants were prevented from entering.