EU condemns Belarusian use of migrants as Poland imposes state of emergency
The European Union’s foreign affairs commissioner Josep Borrell has condemned Belarus and backed Poland, Lithuania and Latvia following a surge in illegal migrants from war-torn countries.
Poland declared a state of emergency on Friday after thousands of migrants, largely from Iraq and Afghanistan, tried to illegally cross the Belarus border in recent weeks.
The state of emergency covers 183 towns and villages in two provinces bordering Belarus.
After EU foreign ministers met in Slovenia, Borrell told the media that member states “stand in solidarity with Lithuania, Latvia and Poland and we are ready to take all measures to support them if the situation continues deteriorating”.
He said the ministers deplored that the Minsk regime was cynically using “migrants and refugees to artificially create pressure on our eastern borders”.
“We said that when we had some migrant pressure on the Spanish border, we said ‘the Spanish border with Morocco is a European border’. Now it is time to say that the borders of Lithuania and Poland, on the eastern part of Europe, are also the borders of Europe,” the Spanish diplomat announced.
Poland and the Baltic states have accused the dictatorial Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, of waging a “hybrid war” in response to EU sanctions following his brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.
Lukashenko has threatened to flood the EU with drugs and migrants in response to sanctions.
The three nations have reinforced their borders and Lithuania and Latvia declared states of emergency this summer. It is Poland’s first state of emergency since the fall of communism in 1989.
The Polish measures limit access to a 3km deep border region to those not permitted by the authorities.
A total of 32 Afghans have been trapped for more than three weeks in no-man’s land on the Poland-Belarus border.
Amnesty International claimed Poland’s state of emergency will mean “serious risks” for migrants attempting to reach Poland and exacerbate the conditions for the 32 Afghans who are in a “dire situation”. It says they lack sufficient food and water, although the Polish authorities deny the accusations.
Poland’s anti-migrant Law and Justice or PiS government says it registered 3,500 attempts by migrants to cross the Belarus border since early August, compared to zero in the same period in 2020.
Poland said the state of emergency was needed to halt migration and prevent provocations following a recent protest at the border that involved 13 activists trying to cut a newly erected razor-wire barrier. They also said the measures would help prepare for combined Russian and Belarusian military exercises, Zapad-2021, beginning in mid-September that are due to enter Belarusian territory.
A migrant camp in Lithuania. Picture credit: YouTube