A Tense Situation Unfolds at Poland's Border

Masses of migrants from Belarus are trying to get in
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 8, 2021 10:40 AM CST
A Tense Situation Unfolds at Poland's Border
Migrants warm up at the Belarus-Poland border near Grodno, Belarus, on Monday.   (Leonid Shcheglov/BelTA via AP)

Poland has increased security at its border with Belarus, on the European Union's eastern border, after a large group of migrants in Belarus appeared to be congregating by the frontier seeking to try to force their way into Poland, per the AP. Video footage from Belarusian media showed people using uprooted trees to try to get through a fence. Poland's interior ministry said it had rebuffed an attempt at illegal entry, saying the situation is under control. It posted a video showing migrants trying to get through a razor fence barrier and throwing objects at Polish forces lining the fence.

There was no way to independently verify what was happening, as journalists have limited ability to operate in Belarus, while a state of emergency in Poland is keeping reporters, human rights workers, and others out of the area. The massing of people at the border appeared, however, to signal an escalation of a crisis that has being going on for months in which the autocratic regime of Belarus has encouraged migrants from the Middle East and elsewhere to illegally enter the European Union, at first through Lithuania and Latvia and now primarily through Poland.

Anton Bychkovsky, spokesman for Belarus' State Border Guard Committee, said the migrants at the border are seeking to "exercise their right to apply for refugee status in the EU." Bychkovsky insisted they "are not a security threat" and "are not behaving aggressively." Bychkovsky added that, according to the refugees, they gathered into such a large group in order to avoid "forcible ousting by the Polish side." But the massing of a large number of people was viewed as a threat by Poland and other European countries, including Germany—the main destination for many of the migrants.

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Steffen Seibert, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, told reporters on Monday that "the Belarusian regime is acting as a human trafficker," adding that it "instrumentalizes refugees and migrants in a way that's politically and from a humanitarian point of view condemnable." In Brussels, a spokesman for the European Commission, Adalbert Jahnz, called it "a continuation of the desperate attempt by the (Belarusian President Alexander) Lukashenko regime to use people as pawns to destabilize the European Union and of course the values that we stand for."

(More Poland stories.)

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