Border standoff between Poland and Belarus puts Afghan migrants in trouble

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This is a deadlock that stunned Poland. A group of Afghans crowded on the edge of the forest bordering Belarus, trapped for nearly three weeks between security forces who refused to let them into Poland and Belarusian soldiers who refused to let them retreat.

According to local activists, the 32 Afghans are weak and hungry, and 12 of them are seriously ill Well planned Belarusian authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko supports Belarus in retaliation against the EU Persecuted opposition.

Officials say that more than 4,000 immigrants have entered Lithuania from Belarus in recent weeks, and more than 2,100 have tried to enter Poland.Coupled with the fear that the Taliban will go into exile from Afghanistan after they seize power, Lukashenko’s practice of transporting migrants to the EU border has triggered Repeated ghost The 2015 immigration crisis shook EU politics and strengthened the populists throughout the EU.

Polish officials accused Belarus of using immigration as a “hybrid tool” to destabilize neighboring countries. Two weeks later, when Russia and Belarus will begin a series of joint military exercises involving thousands of soldiers, the relationship between the two countries will face another test.

An Afghan woman gestures to the Polish border guards. Attempts to deliver food, water and medicine from Poland have been blocked © Wojtek Radwanski/AFP via Getty Images

“Lukashenko wanted to create a destructive debate [in the EU]”,” said Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydac. “The Zapad exercise will take place next month, so we must see a broader picture. “

In the border village of Usnarz Gorny, where dozens of mainly elderly residents live, activists say this group of Afghans are forced to endure inhumane conditions. They accused the Polish border guards—they, along with the police and soldiers, set a cordon about 100 million meters from where the immigrants were trapped—for blocking efforts to help them.

Attempts to deliver food, water and medicine from Poland, including two priests and an opposition MP, have been blocked. The militants claimed that these migrants demanded international protection, there were only seven tents between them, and they could not use toilets.

Translator Aleksandra Szymczyk, who has been communicating with Afghans through the speaker across the cordon, said that when she tried to talk to the migrants this week, border guards turned on the engine of the truck to cover her up. if.

Map showing the borders of Poland and Belarus and EU countries

“Of course, the Belarusian side is taking advantage of this situation cynically-this is their strategy,” said Piotr Bystrianin of Fundacja Ocalenie, an aid organization based in Usnartsgorny. “The terrible thing is that Poland is playing this game.”

Representatives of the Polish Border Force did not respond to requests for comment.

Deputy Foreign Minister Przydacz stated that Warsaw has offered to provide humanitarian assistance to immigrants through the border crossing with Belarus, but Minsk did not agree. He added that it is illegal for Poland to provide assistance to parts of the border that are not marked as border crossings.

“This is a new tool to destabilize the EU, so I think we should first abide by the law and try to push Lukashenko to stop this behavior,” he said.

Klaudia Jachira, the Polish opposition politician of Civic Platform, tries to negotiate with border guards
Citizen platform opposition politician Claudia Jakira (right) tries to negotiate with Usnarz Gorny’s border guards © Wojtek Radwanski/AFP via Getty Images

As the Usnarz Gorny confrontation continues, the debate in Poland on how to deal with it has become more and more intense.

The ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) once again took an uncompromising stance, and its anti-immigration rhetoric helped it win power in 2015. It has sent about 1,800 soldiers to the area, laid several kilometers of barbed wire along the border, and promised to further strengthen the border with a 2.5-meter-high fence. “Poland resisted the refugee wave in 2015, and now it will defend itself again,” Deputy Prime Minister Piotr Glinski said last week.

Opposition politicians took a mixed approach. Donald Tusk, the head of the largest opposition party’s civic platform, called on the government to help Afghans trapped in Usnartsgorny. But he also criticized PiS for failing to ensure border security, accusing it of being “helpless” and responding too slowly.

Others are more outspoken. Former dissident and opposition activist Wladyslaw Frasyniuk gave a fierce tirade to the Polish soldiers stationed in Usnarz Gorny, saying They are “a pack of dogs”, prompting the Polish Minister of Defense to file a complaint with the prosecutor.

Observers say that PiS’s tough attitude recently lost its majority in parliament. Approval rate drops In the past year, it is more likely to coincide with public sentiment.

“There are a lot of people strongly opposed to letting immigrants in, so I suspect this will increase support for PiS, [far-right party] Confederation,” said Renata Mienkowska-Norkiene, a political scientist at the University of Warsaw.

“For the opposition, this will be a tricky topic, because Tusk has to talk about it very carefully so as not to discourage people with a humanitarian attitude.”

In Usnarz Gorny, locals are divided on the plight of immigrants. “Lukashenko should take care of them. Why don’t you send them [German chancellor Angela] Merkel? Why should we take care of them? Said a man pushing his bicycle through the village.

Others are more sympathetic. “I feel sorry for them. They did not commit any crimes,” said a woman who declined to be named, adding that other migrants had crossed the border without being caught.

“Someone must have brought them here. They may be promised a better life.”

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