Poland considers state of emergency on Belarus border

Guards report more than 3,200 people crossed frontier in August, mainly Iraqis

Migrants are faced with patrol guards after crossing the border from Belarus into Poland near the village of Usnarz Gorny. AP
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Poland’s government plans to impose a state of emergency along its border with Belarus after a surge of migrants from the neighbouring country.

The request for a state of emergency is on the desk of President Andrzej Duda, who said he was urgently analysing it and hinted he would grant it.

“Please expect Poland’s security to be strengthened in the nearest time through acts of law, and also through subsequent actions on Poland’s border,” he said.

Polish border guards said more than 3,200 people tried to cross illegally from Belarus in August.

Most were from Iraq, with Afghans the second-largest group and others coming from Somalia, Tajikistan and Syria.

Non-EU member Belarus is suspected of orchestrating the flow of people to retaliate against EU sanctions.

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have also faced migration pressure, and along with Poland have increased security at the EU's external border.

The government in Warsaw has sent 2,000 troops to assist border guards and built a barbed-wire fence along its border with Belarus.

The state of emergency in Poland would allow authorities to limit access to the border and require people in the area to show identity documents.

Activists who question the actions of Polish border guards fear the state of emergency will force them out of the area.

A barbed-wire fence has been built by Polish soldiers on the border with Belarus. Reuters

“The situation on the border with Belarus is a constant crisis,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said. “That is why we have decided to propose this solution to the president.”

Watchdogs have accused Polish guards of pushing migrants back into Belarus. A stand-off involving 30 Afghans stranded on the border has lasted for more than three weeks.

The government has pursued a tough line, preventing them from entering Polish territory and making asylum claims.

“If we let 30 in, 300 will come soon, then 3,000, then 30,000,” Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said.

Activists say eight of the migrants have kidney problems and five have diarrhoea. They say authorities have tried to stop them communicating with the migrants.

A group of religious leaders called on the Polish government on Tuesday to give humanitarian aid to the Afghans.

The people stuck at the border “suffer from hunger, cold and indifference”, said the group made up of Christian, Jewish and Muslim representatives.

“We call on the competent Polish authorities to immediately provide the refugees stranded in the border area with the necessary humanitarian aid.”

Updated: September 01, 2021, 2:26 PM