Poland warns that the migration crisis could last for years

Sokolka | Poland warned on Wednesday that the crisis with Belarus “may last for months or even years”, saying that migrants “again attacked the Polish border”, the eastern tip of the European Union, overnight.

On Tuesday, Polish security forces used tear gas and water cannons to deter migrants who threw stones at them while trying to cross the border.

A few thousand migrants, mostly from the Middle East, are still camping on the Belarusian side in cold temperatures in perilous conditions, and the West accuses Minsk of orchestrating the crisis since the summer in response to sanctions and for the sake of dividing the European Union. .

The European Union said Minsk organized the flow of thousands of migrants to the borders of Poland and Lithuania in retaliation for sanctions imposed after a relentless crackdown on Belarusian dissent since 2020.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and his main ally Russian President Vladimir Putin have dismissed the accusations and criticized the European Union for failing to welcome the migrants, who have been stranded for weeks in wooded border areas, and Poland, as well as the two other European neighbours. Belarus, Lithuania and Latvia, refusing to welcome them.

The situation on the Polish-Belarus border will not be resolved quickly. “We must prepare for months, even years,” Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak told Polish public radio PR1.

According to the minister, attempts to cross the border continued into the night, as the migrants used the same “method of attacking the Polish border” that was observed at the border point between Bróže and Koznica on Tuesday.

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“Public attention focused on what happened in Koznica, while smaller groups of migrants tried to cross the Polish border in other sections, also at night,” he said.

Eleven wounded

On Tuesday, Polish border guards recorded a total of “161 attempts to illegally cross” the border, including “two forced crossings,” according to a statement.

And Polish police said, on Wednesday, that nine officials were injured in the clashes that took place Tuesday, in addition to a border guard and a soldier.

Belarus and Russia condemned the measures taken by Polish forces on Tuesday, which came after Brussels and Washington announced on Monday their desire to expand punitive measures against Belarus in the coming days.

After pressure from the European Union, Belarusian airline Belavia announced on Monday that it will ban Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans and Yemenis from flying from Dubai to Belarus. Turkey imposed the same restrictions last week.

Iraq announced a scheduled return flight on Thursday for at least 200 of its nationals stranded at the border, including women and children.

Appeals for humanitarian aid

President Lukashenko, who has been in power for three decades, spoke on Monday about the crisis with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

This was his first phone call with a Western leader since mass protests against his regime were suppressed last year.

French President Emmanuel Macron also spoke with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in an attempt to defuse the crisis.

Aid organizations say at least 11 migrants have died on both sides of the border since the crisis began this summer and have called for a humanitarian response.

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The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, who visited the border region on Tuesday, said the situation on the Poland-Belarus border was “extremely complex and problematic.

“We have to find a way to defuse the situation,” said Dunja Mijatovic, assuring the press that “the goal is really to stop the suffering.”

On Wednesday, Russian state television showed footage of hundreds of migrants in a covered center set up by the Belarusian authorities near the border, where families with children spent the night.

The Belarusian Ministry of Health said it had hospitalized six people, including four children.

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