Poland’s president signs state of emergency to stop migration from Belarus
Poland’s President Andrzej Duda has signed a government proposal to create a state of emergency on the border with Belarus to stop immigration from war-torn countries.
Poland has already sent troops to build a 2.5-metre razor-wire barrier along most of the 150km border with Belarus.
Warsaw claims its dictatorial eastern neighbour is carrying out “hybrid warfare” by sending migrants from the war zones towards its borders with European Union members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.
Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said a state of emergency was required to seal the frontier.
“The situation is still a crisis due to the fact that the [Alexander] Lukashenko regime decided to push people – mostly from Iraq – into the territories of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, in order to introduce a destabilising element into our countries,” he said.
The state of emergency – which would be the first in Poland since the fall of communism in 1989 – would apply to a 3km buffer zone spanning 183 municipalities along the Belarussian frontier, prohibiting public gatherings and visits to the border.
Warsaw says Lithuania and Latvia have already introduced similar measures.
The European Union has accused Belarus of launching a “direct attack” on its eastern members and trying to “instrumentalise human beings for political purposes” by pushing migrants towards member states.
Around 32 Afghan migrants have been camped between Polish and Belarusian border outposts for weeks. Lawyers for the refugees said their living conditions were “extremely inhumane”.
In a media stunt, Polish opposition parliamentarian Franek Sterczewski tried to avoid Polish border guards to deliver aid to the migrants stranded in no-man’s land. Polish border guards detained 13 people trying to remove a razor-wire fence keeping the migrants out of Poland.
Poland’s border guards say over 3,200 people attempted to cross the border from Belarus into Poland illegally during August. The guards said they thwarted 2,500 of the attempts.
Many of the migrants are from war-torn countries in Asia who had been told by the Belarusian authorities that the oppressive country’s western borders were open.
The western Belarusian borders are seen as a key strategic weak point for the whole of Nato. Poland and Lithuania separate Belarus from Russia’s Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad through the strategically vulnerable 80km Suwalki Gap.
Lithuania also accused Minsk of flying in migrants and transporting them to the border as a form of warfare.
“The situation on the Polish border is a gift from God for the Polish government,” said Renata Mieakowska, a political scientist at Warsaw University.
“Polish society is anti-immigrant, so the government will make an effort to maintain this spectacle on the border as long as possible, exploiting the topic to scare people and distract the media from scandals related to the government,” she told the Independent.
Pro-democracy protests in Belarus have been crushed. Picture credit: Pexels