The situation on the Polish-Belarusian border is coming to a head. Poland’s parliament votes in favor of building a barrier to curb the flow of refugees. Foreign Minister Maas, meanwhile, accuses Belarusian ruler Lukashenko of being involved in organized crime.
Poland’s parliament has approved the government’s plan to build a permanent fortification on the border with Belarus. The background to this is the growing number of migrants from crisis areas who want to enter the EU illegally via Belarus. During the vote, the majority of MPs supported the project, which, according to Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski, provides for the construction of a “solid, high barrier with a surveillance system and motion detectors”.
Polish officials talk about a “barrier” or “lock” – they avoid the term “wall” used by the opposition. The government in Warsaw has accused the Belarusian ruler, Alexander Lukashenko, of bringing refugees from crisis regions to the EU’s external border in an organized manner. Lukashenko announced at the end of May that his country would no longer prevent migrants from continuing to travel to the EU – in response to tightened Western sanctions.
Poland started building a temporary fence along the border at the end of August. This is a barbed wire barricade about 2.50 meters high, which is being erected by soldiers of the Polish army. This is now to be replaced by a permanent barrier. A budget of the equivalent of 366 million euros is planned for the project. After the Sejm, the first chamber of parliament, has approved the bill, it now goes to the second chamber, the Senate.
Seventh dead migrant found
Meanwhile, another migrant has been found dead on the Polish border with Belarus. The man’s body was discovered on Wednesday in a field near the village of Klimowka, the Polish police said on Twitter. According to a police spokesman, it is a 24-year-old Syrian. Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas meanwhile made airlines jointly responsible for the precarious situation of refugees who want to get to Europe via Belarus. The police assume that the Syrian migrant had previously been in Belarus because he had a Belarusian visa issued in mid-September with him, said the spokesman for the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper.
According to official information, a total of seven people died on the border between Belarus and EU member Poland in the past few weeks. The circumstances remained largely unclear. Since August, thousands of migrants – mostly from the Middle East – have tried to cross the Polish border from Belarus.
It is believed that the Belarusian authorities are bringing migrants into the country in a targeted manner and smuggling them to the borders with the eastern EU states. In addition to Poland, Lithuania and Latvia also complain about the increased arrival of migrants at their borders with Belarus. Over the past few weeks, Warsaw has stationed thousands of soldiers at the border, erected a barbed wire fence and imposed a state of emergency that bans journalists and aid organizations from accessing the entire 400-kilometer border.
Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas made airlines jointly responsible for the fate of the refugees. “Every day hundreds of desperate people arrive at the airport in Minsk,” Maas told the “Bild” newspaper. Lukashenko lured them with false promises in order to send them on a dangerous and illegal journey to the EU. “The airlines that transport these people are helping those in power in Minsk.” The companies should ask themselves whether they want to “be part of an unscrupulous international smuggling ring under the leadership of Lukashenko”. Maas announced that he would like to discuss this question with his colleagues at the EU foreign ministers’ meeting on Monday.