Poland says it is sending 500 additional troops and special vehicles to the border with Belarus to bolster it against growing pressure from migrants which it says is being orchestrated by Belarus and Russia
WARSAW, Poland – Poland is sending 500 additional troops and special vehicles to its border with Belarus to bolster it against growing pressure from migrants which the government says is being orchestrated by Belarus and Russia to destabilize the European Union.
“We are dealing with a well-organized action led from Minsk and Moscow,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said at a press conference on Monday.
“We will defend Poland’s border with full determination” and prevent migrants from entering, Morawiecki said after a meeting with Poland’s interior minister and head of border guards.
Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said 500 additional troops and eight specialized vehicles would be sent to the border this week.
EU members Poland and Lithuania face increasing migratory pressures on their borders with Belarus, which form part of the bloc’s eastern border. They say it is a “hybrid attack” by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime in Minsk to destabilize the 27-country EU. Pressure at the border began after Western countries introduced sanctions against the Lukashenko regime for its oppressive measures against the opposition.
Morawiecki, however, noted that necessary medical care will be extended to migrants who reach Poland.
He said three migrants, including an Iraqi, who were found dead on Sunday near the Belarusian border have died of hypothermia and exhaustion. An autopsy will be performed on the Iraqi, after his companions report that he behaved strangely before his death. Kaminski said that at one point the men were returned to Belarus by Polish border guards.
Polish border guards also saw the body of a woman near the border on the Belarusian side, according to the head of the border guards, General Tomasz Praga.
Later Monday, hundreds of Warsaw residents placed candles in front of the border guard headquarters in mourning for the deceased migrants.
Morawiecki and Kaminski said migrants from the Middle East and Africa pay large sums in Belarus to be allegedly smuggled into Germany, but are left by Belarusian military in dense forests and peatlands on the border with Poland . They said Belarus had introduced visa-free travel with some Middle Eastern countries to bring in migrants and push them to Poland and Lithuania.
Morawiecki said a pregnant migrant woman was recently apprehended while leading 13 migrant children who were not her own. The children were hospitalized, some of them with COVID-19.
But humanitarian organizations are drawing attention to the plight of migrants.
Poland and Lithuania are building razor wire fences, increased border patrols and instituted a temporary state of emergency along their borders to stop illegal migration, but they also ban journalists and aid groups to access the border strip. Poland must decide at the end of September whether or not to extend the 30-day state of emergency established on September 2.
Authorities said there had been more than 8,000 attempted illegal crossings from Belarus this year, including more than 3,800 attempts so far in September.