The dramatic situation of thousands of refugees and migrants smuggled from the Belarusian regime to the EU borders with Poland and Lithuania alarms politicians in Germany and the EU. Poland closed the Kuźnica border crossing on Tuesday, and the Lithuanian government wants to impose a state of emergency in the border area, as Poland has already done. Both countries increased the military presence on their borders with Belarus. Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who was visiting soldiers in the border area with the Defense Minister, warned on Twitter that the stability and security of the entire EU were at stake: “The hybrid attack by the Lukashenko regime is targeting us all.”
In the EU one is certain that the Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko – the EU does not recognize his election as president – will flow in people from crisis regions in order to smuggle them into the EU as a reaction to sanctions. At the end of May, he announced that his country would no longer prevent migrants from continuing their journey.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has now called on Lukashenko to end the “cynical instrumentalization of migrants for political purposes”. She phoned the heads of government in Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, assured them solidarity and offered help. Von der Leyen also said that further sanctions are being examined. These could hit airlines that are involved in “human trafficking”.
A commission spokesman said Tuesday that a dozen states are being monitored from which migrants are being flown to Minsk, including Russia. Von der Leyen’s deputy, Margaritis Schinas, will be traveling to countries of origin and transit over the next few days to urge them not to allow the migrants to fall into Lukashenko’s “trap”.
The EU Council already adopted the decision on Tuesday to suspend visa facilitation with Belarus for officials of the regime. “We strongly condemn the ongoing instrumentalisation of migration by the Belarusian regime and firmly reject it. It cannot be accepted that Belarus is playing with people’s lives for political purposes,” said Slovenian Interior Minister Aleš Hojs on behalf of the EU Presidency. NATO has also already spoken out and warned Belarus not to instrumentalize refugees against the Western military alliance. The alliance is ready to support the allies.
On Monday, the situation at the Belarusian-Polish border came to a head when, according to Polish authorities, larger groups of migrants tried to break through border fences near Kuźnica. Polish security forces fought them off using tear gas.
According to the Polish government spokesman, there are now 3,000 to 4,000 migrants on the Belarusian side. They endure in the open air with no supply at sub-zero temperatures. The spokesman for Poland’s intelligence coordinator, Stanisław Żaryn, tweeted that the migrant group is under the control of armed Belarusian forces “who decide where to go and where not”.
The acting Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer (CSU) already called on the EU on Monday that Europe must support Poland in securing the border. “All EU states have to stand together because the Belarusian head of state”, with the support of Russian President Vladimir Putin, uses the fate of people to destabilize the West, “he says Bild newspaper. Seehofer’s spokesman tweeted on Tuesday that the minister had said: “It is a very nasty political method that must be stopped in any case. We call it a hybrid threat, where people are used to destabilize the EU and especially Germany – that is allowed do not prevail in the world! “
According to Polish estimates, a total of up to 10,000 migrants are in Belarus, most of them from Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Syria. A large part apparently wants to get to Germany, where the Federal Police found more than 8,800 migrants related to Belarus this year. The numbers have recently risen sharply, and by July only 30 such cases had been counted. Poland claims that around 30,000 people tried to enter the country illegally from Belarus, more than half of them in October.
In Berlin, the Union parliamentary group in the Bundestag introduced a motion that will be discussed on Thursday. The CDU and CSU are calling on the federal government to advocate landing bans and other sanctions against airlines at European level that “transport migrants on the basis of the abusive visa exemption granted by Belarus”. It should also be noted that Belarus, as a “Russian client state”, does not make such decisions alone. If other steps are not sufficient, the government should take precautions for controls at the German-Polish border. Group leader Ralph Brinkhaus also turned to the future governing parties via Twitter: “The traffic light parties must quickly present a plan on how to react to the situation at the border.”
The general secretary and designated chairman of the SPD, Lars Klingbeil, said the image from Tuesday that a humanitarian solution must be found in the EU “for those who are there” – “these people must be helped”. The EU countries would have to “ensure that no more new refugees arrive”.