Migrants between Belarus and Poland: Dramatic situation on the border

Status: November 8th, 2021 5:43 pm

The situation on the Polish-Belarusian border is chaotic: Hundreds of people are right at the border fence trying to get to Poland. Warsaw is gathering troops and has set up a crisis team.

By Jan Pallokat, ARD Studio Warsaw

Tumultuous scenes on the border between Poland and Belarus: A video published by the Polish Ministry of Defense shows how the use of pepper spray by Polish border guards is hardly enough to prevent people from cutting the barbed wires from the Belarusian side.

Jan Pallokat
ARD studio Warsaw

Aerial photos, also published by the Polish Ministry of Defense, show a group of hundreds of people right at the border fence, not far from a regular border crossing. According to the independent Belarusian video service Nexta, it is mainly Kurds who have agreed to enter Poland together via a nearby checkpoint; shortly before the border, however, they were pushed into the woods and to the fence by Belarusian border guards.

Olaf Bock, ARD Warsaw, with assessments of the situation on the border with Poland

Olaf Bock, ARD Warsaw, tagesschau24 3 p.m., November 8, 2021

Belarusian escort?

Poland accuses the Belarusian side of controlling the migration movement and, in the current case, of having escorted people to the border. The spokesman for the secret service coordinator Stanislaw Zaryn says: “The Belarusians are increasingly bringing groups of migrants to the Polish border, up to 250 people, in order to escort them en masse to the Polish side. They control and organize these groups, but also help to cut through the border fortifications. “

An independent review of such representations is not possible because Poland does not allow journalists and other observers to go to the border and has forbidden recordings of the border installations. On the Belarusian side, access to the border strip is normally also prohibited.

Migrants speak of initiative

An Iraqi in the group told the research service Okopress that this case was not at all an organized action by Belarus, but an initiative of migrants who wanted to set an example. According to the representation of the Polish border guards, however, the larger group at the border is currently being reinforced by people who would bring Belarusian forces there.

The group is apparently between the actual border fence and another fence on the Belarusian side of the border. Memories are awakened of a group of 32 Afghans who, from August onwards, camped in the forest for weeks, wedged between Polish and Belarusian border guards, before a violent breakthrough through the barriers occurred.

However, the current, larger and previously openly agreed march to the border on the Internet does not quite fit with the previous strategy of the Minsk ruler Alexander Lukashenko to surprise the Polish side with breakthroughs in unpredictable places. A Polish deputy foreign minister suspected that Lukashenko was trying to provoke major incidents with gunfire and deaths.

Thousands of soldiers on alert

The crisis team met in Warsaw; In addition to thousands of soldiers, police officers and border guards, the government also put the so-called “Territorial Defense”, a kind of volunteer force, on alert. Occasional calls to simply let people into the country and, if they are not entitled to asylum, to send them back to their home countries, a government spokesman denied:

Let’s say we let them in, check their applications. We can’t lock her up, that would be inhuman. The majority want to go to Germany, but Germany does not want to let them in anymore and closes its border or sends the migrants back to Poland. And we are left with maybe a million migrants. Then what should we do?

Instead, Poland sends back people who have made it across the border. Compared to the ARD a spokesman put the number of “daily returns”, as the pushbacks are officially called, up to 700 a day. Migrants often report having been pushed back and forth between the two countries several times before they manage to flee further into the interior of Poland or to Germany. The “Grenzgruppe”, a network of Polish aid organizations, warned of the risk of serious clashes – a lot of frustration and despair had built up among the migrants.

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