Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) Poland is continuing to push back illegal migrants from Belarus and take in Ukrainian refugees as the conflict in the country persists.
Thousands of migrants, largely from the Middle East, have tried to enter Poland since last summer and were pushed back to Belarus in response to what the EU describes as “hybrid warfare,” according to RFI reporting on Friday.
The bloc and the West more broadly have accused Belarus of orchestrating illegal migration to the EU in cooperation with Russia, with Minsk rejecting the accusations.
NGOs and border guards have warned that attempted crossings from Belarus are on the rise as Minsk closed the last migrant centres on its side.
Roughly 500 migrants tried to enter Poland from Belarus last week, with Border Group NGO expressing belief that Polish authorities “push back absolutely everyone, no matter their situation or health status.”
Jarosław Jagura, an attorney with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, criticised legal processes against Border Group activists, stressing that “serious criminal accusations are being levelled for having provided humanitarian assistance or shelter or driven these people from the woods to a safe place.”
He noted that “organising illegal border crossings is punishable by eight years in prison.”
Anna Michalska, the Polish Border Guard spokesperson, stressed that only migrants trying to get to Germany are pushed back and added that those who want to stay in Poland can apply for asylum.
Activists say that the Polish Border Guard is lying about what is happening at the border with Belarus, adding that “the weakest, families with children… pregnant women” were “trying to cross the border,” stressing that Polish authorities were pushing everyone back.
Commenting on the different treatment of Ukrainian refugees and people trying to enter Poland from Belarus, attorney Jagura noted that he cannot understand “why on the one hand helping those fleeing Ukraine is desirable, rewarded and lauded while on the other hand helping people at the Polish-Belarusian border is stigmatised and criminal.”
His colleague Marta Górczyńska pointed out that people on the border with Belarus “found themselves in the woods where the temperature drops to minus three degrees Celsius.”