Poland accuses Belarus of changing tactics in migrant border crisis

Poland says Belarus is now sending small groups to sneak across the border

Belarus has changed tactics and is directing smaller groups of migrants to several points along the European Union's eastern frontier, Poland said on Saturday.

Polish border guards reported new attempted crossings by several groups of people, but apart from one group of about 200, they were small gangs made up of dozens of migrants.

Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said he expected the border showdown with Belarus to be long and drawn out while Belarus said the situation remained tense.

The humanitarian crisis on the border exploded after months of simmering tension between the two neighbours.

Poland and the EU say Belarus is stoking the chaos by sending more and more migrants to the border in retaliation for sanctions imposed against Minsk.

Warsaw has pushed back thousands of asylum seekers approaching its borders after passing new legislation in mid-October, contrary to international law and convention.

“We have to prepare for the fact that this problem will continue for months. I have no doubt that that will be the case,” Mr Blaszczak said.

“Now a bit of a new method has been taken on by the migrants and Belarusian services … Smaller groups of people are trying to cross the border in many places.”

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is scheduled to meet on Sunday with his counterparts from EU members Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which have also been hit by the migrant pressure in recent months.

He said he might also travel to some other European countries in the coming week.

Mr Morawiecki called the crisis a “very serious geopolitical situation” that required a lot of diplomatic effort as many migrants from the Middle East remained in Belarus and continued to try to force their way into Poland.

“This is why I set out on a journey to some European countries, to talk about the international crisis provoked by the actions of [Belarusian President] Alexander Lukashenko,” Mr Morawiecki said.

“Unfortunately, there are numerous signs suggesting that this geopolitical crisis will be continued for many months, even years."

The Belarusian state border committee, meanwhile, said that “the situation on the border remains tense".

The West has accused Mr Lukashenko of using the migrants as pawns to destabilise the EU in retaliation for being hit with sanctions on his authoritarian regime.

Belarus denies engineering the crisis, which has led to migrants entering the country since last summer and then trying to cross into Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

Updated: November 21st 2021, 7:41 AM
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