AOn Monday the situation on the Belarusian-Polish border worsened, where migrants, mostly from Iraq and Syria, have been trying to get into the EU for weeks. As early as Monday morning, images were spread on social media showing long lines of people with backpacks and bags moving on and along a road in the direction of the Brusgi – Kuznica Bialostocka border crossing. Around noon, the Polish border guards announced that they had repulsed an attempt to violently cross the border. A spokesman for the Polish government said the Belarusian regime apparently wanted to provoke bloodshed at the border.
Video recordings from both sides of the border showed how the barbed wire fence erected by Poles in recent months had been torn down in places, while on the Polish side a dense chain of security forces with shields guarded the border. The Polish government called an emergency meeting of the National Security Council because of the situation on the border. Rumors had already been growing at the weekend that on Monday there could be a massive storm of migrants, mostly from Iraq and Syria, on the Polish border.
Lukashenko’s regime blames Poland
The Belarusian state media also reported on the migrants’ march to the border. The Belarusian Border Security Committee announced: “A large group of refugees with belongings” is moving on the road towards the border with Poland. The regime of the Belarusian ruler Alexandr Lukashenko blamed Poland for this situation: “The indifference and inhuman behavior of the Polish government brought the refugees to this step of despair.”
In reality, however, the situation was brought about by the Belarusian side. It is unthinkable that in Belarus, where even small gatherings of people are forcibly dispersed, such columns of people can get into the immediate vicinity of the border without the tolerance or support of the Belarusian authorities. Belarusian uniformed men can be seen on the convoy’s videos posted on social media. Apparently they pushed the migrants off the road to the regular border crossing into the surrounding forest, where people then gathered along the border fence erected by Poles in recent months.
With Belarusian escort to the border
According to the Polish border guards, the people were escorted to the border by Belarusian security forces. This corresponds to an approach that has been observed again and again since the summer, which has also been confirmed by migrants who have managed to cross the border. The Belarusian security forces also prevent the migrants from turning back. A video probably recorded on Monday from the Polish side shows how uniformed men on the Belarusian side are pushing women into the barbed wire border fortifications.
Belarus, which is not on the classic migration routes, has been targeting the flow of migrants from the Middle East to its country since the summer. People from Iraq, Syria, Iran and other countries received visas as “tourists”, sometimes directly at the airport, where sometimes so many of them gathered that they spent the night in corridors. The number of flights from Dubai, Istanbul and Damascus to Minsk has increased and is expected to continue to increase. In Minsk, residents recently became annoyed with the mostly young men from Arab countries who lounged around in the streets and squares of the center of the Belarusian capital and in shopping centers, sometimes even sleeping outdoors, apparently because they had run out of money.
The Belarusian ruler Lukashenko is reacting to the EU sanctions against his regime. When the pressure on him after the forced landing of the Ryanair flight with the regime opponent Roman Protassewitsch in Minsk rose in early summer with new western sanctions, there was a blatant threat not to “stop” migrants on their way to the EU. Soon afterwards, the number of migrants arriving to Lithuania from Belarus, predominantly from Iraq, skyrocketed. Since late summer, most of the migrants have tried to get to Poland.
It is clear that the migrants do not want to stay in Belarus, and most of them do not want to stay in Poland or Lithuania, but rather want to go further west, especially to Germany, the Arabic name of which is mentioned again and again in the migrants’ smartphone videos. A video broadcast by migrants on Monday could be heard chanting “German” at the border fence by a crowd. Meanwhile, the Polish police issued announcements in English warning of the destruction of the border installations and illegal border crossing; this would result in criminal proceedings.