Poland says Belarus has changed tactics in the face of border crisis

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Poland said Belarus has changed tack in its border crisis, now directing smaller groups of migrants to several points along the European Union’s eastern border.

Although there were signs of the crisis subsiding, Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said he expected the border standoff to be long.

Polish border guards reported further crossing attempts by several groups consisting mostly of dozens of migrants, even though there was a crowd of 200 people throwing stones and using tear gas.

“We need to prepare for the fact that this problem will continue for months to come. I have no doubt that will be the case, ”Blaszczak told commercial radio RMF FM.

“Now a new method has been adopted by migrants and Belarusian services (…) Smaller groups of people are trying to cross the border in many places,” he said.

He added that “there is no doubt that these attacks are directed by the Belarusian services”.

The West accuses Belarus of artificially creating the crisis by bringing in potential migrants – mostly from the Middle East – and bringing them to the border with the promise of easy passage to the EU.

Belarus denied the claim, instead criticizing the EU for failing to welcome the migrants.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko told the BBC on Friday that it was “entirely possible” that his forces had helped people enter the EU, but denied orchestrating the operation.

“We are Slavs. We have hearts. Our troops know that the migrants are going to Germany… Maybe someone helped them, ”he said. “But I didn’t invite them here. “

There were indications this week that the crisis was abating after several hundred migrants were repatriated to Iraq, while 2,000 others left a makeshift border camp for a nearby warehouse.

Polish border guards said on Friday that there had been 195 illegal crossing attempts.

“Eighty-two foreigners have been ordered to leave Polish territory. Two Ukrainian citizens and a German citizen were arrested for help and encouragement, ”the guards tweeted on Saturday.

They added that there had been several attempts to cross the section of the border guarded by the unit in the eastern village of Dubicze Cerkiewne.

“The largest group consisted of around 200 foreigners, the rest each numbered several dozen people,” the guards tweeted. “The foreigners were aggressive – they threw stones, firecrackers and used tear gas. “

The migrants abandoned everything in their country, spending thousands of dollars to travel to Belarus on tourist visas, determined to join the EU.

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović on Friday called the humanitarian situation along the border “alarming” and called for an end to the controversial returns of migrants to Belarus through Poland.

“I have personally listened to the appalling tales of the extreme suffering of desperate people… who have spent weeks or even months in squalid and extreme conditions in the cold and damp woods due to these pushbacks,” she said. .

“All pushbacks must end immediately. “

Polish mothers have planned a rally for migrants’ rights on Saturday in the eastern town of Hajnowka.

Polish media say at least 11 migrants have died since the crisis began this summer.

Poland this week held its first funeral for one of the migrants – a Syrian teenager who drowned in the Bug border river – this week and two more funerals are scheduled for the weekend.

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