Belarus looking to use Afghan migrants as border pawns, warns Polish PM

By By Liudas Dapkus, Associated Press

Poland’s leader has warned against more possible migrant pressures on the European Union’s border with Belarus, this time coming from Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki spoke in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, following talks with the country’s prime minister Ingrida Simonyte about ways of solving the “very difficult situation” at the borders of EU members with Belarus.

He was on a one-day tour of meetings with the prime ministers of EU members Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which have also been hit by the migrant pressures.

Migrants line up for food near a logistics centre at the Belarus/Poland border near Grodno in Belarus (Maxim Guchek/BelTA via AP)

All leaders stressed the need for acting jointly and said the border crisis created by Belarus had strengthened their co-operation.

The EU says the new surge of migrants on its eastern borders has been orchestrated by Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko’s regime in retaliation for the bloc’s sanctions placed on Belarus after its crackdown on peaceful democracy protesters.

It calls the move “a hybrid attack” on the entire 27-nation European Union. Belarus denies the charge.

Poland’s Border Guard said on Sunday that it had prevented a forceful illegal entry by some 100 “very aggressive foreigners” on Saturday who had been brought to the fenced border near the village of Czeremcha by Belarus forces.

Mr Morawiecki said he expected the migrant pressures on Poland and the EU to continue, but now from a different region, claiming knowledge of “diplomatic” contacts that Belarus and Russia had with Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.

Migrants sleep in a logistics centre at the Belarus/Poland border near Grodno in Belarus (Maxim Guchek/BelTA via AP)

“There is a threat of an even more difficult scenario,” Mr Morawiecki said.

“There will most probably be an attempt at using the crisis in Afghanistan as a new act in the migration crisis, putting to use the West’s remorse related to the disorderly pullout from Afghanistan.”

In Latvia’s capital of Riga, Mr Morawiecki said “only the full pullback of the migrants and steps toward de-escalation can lead back to any kind of a constructive scenario with Lukashenko”.

Earlier in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, Mr Morawiecki said Poland was ready to contribute financially to return flights home for migrants who have been stranded at the border’s damp forest for weeks.

He said Warsaw was also ready to close all border crossings with Belarus to step up the economic pressure on Mr Lukashenko’s regime. The Polish road crossing near Kuznica was closed last week.

A few hundred people with banners and gold-and-silver hypothermia blankets march in Warsaw in Poland in support of the migrants stranded at the border (AP)

Lithuania’s Ms Simonyte stressed that the EU should co-ordinate all further actions on Belarus with countries at the forefront of these attacks – Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

“The European Commission has now taken over the technical talks with Minsk. It is very important that no decisions are taken that will not allow the situation to be resolved,” Ms Simonyte told reporters, warning against any separate Poland/Belarus discussions.

Poland is pushing the migrants back, saying it is protecting the border for all of Europe and Nato. It has received words of support from the EU, Nato and the US.

A few migrants have died in the forests straddling the border. Others have abandoned hopes of reaching Europe and were flown back to their home countries last week.

Poland’s Tatar community in the eastern village of Bohoniki on Sunday held a third funeral for a migrant, burying a 37-year-old Yemeni, Mustafa Mouhamad Murshid al-Raimi, who was found on September 19 in the forest with hypothermia.

Poland’s Border Guard says it has registered more than 34,000 attempts at illegally crossing into Poland this year, including more than 17,000 in October and more than 6,000 in November so far.


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