Polish border sees migrant influx

Warsaw accuses Belarus of orchestrating the crisis in retaliation for sanctions

Poland said on Wednesday it had seen a surge in attempts to breach its border and had pushed back hundreds of migrants to Belarus, after it accused Minsk and Moscow of trying to orchestrate a crisis on Europe’s borders.

The migrants, mainly from the Middle East, have spent days in freezing temperatures on the border, blocked by rows of Polish border guards behind razor-wire.

Western governments have accused Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko of luring the migrants to his country and sending them to cross over into EU member Poland in retaliation for sanctions.

Also Read: Poland reinforces security on Belarus border

Poland has gone a step further, saying Mr. Lukashenko’s main backer, Russian President Vladimir Putin, is masterminding the crisis.

Between 2,000 and 4,000 migrants, reported to be mainly Kurds, have set up a camp near the border after they made a concerted effort to cross on Monday but were pushed back by Polish border guards.

Spike in crossings

Polish officials said on Wednesday there had been a spike in attempted crossings in the previous 24 hours.

Poland’s border guard said that large groups of migrants crossed the border illegally , but were all pushed back.

The Defence Ministry said Belarus was using intimidation to force migrants to breach the border, tweeting two short videos that it said showed a shot fired on the Belarusian side by a man in uniform.

Belarus has levelled its own accusations against Poland, saying Warsaw is violating international norms by blocking the migrants and beating them back with violence.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Tuesday said the migrants were being used as “human shields to destabilise the situation in Poland and the EU” and pointed the finger at Russia.

“This attack which Lukashenko is conducting has its mastermind in Moscow, the mastermind is President Putin,” Mr. Morawiecki told the Polish parliament.

Merkel calls Putin

The EU is now considering new sanctions for human trafficking and EU chief Charles Michel was due to hold talks on the crisis with Mateusz Morawiecki in Warsaw later on Wednesday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel telephoned Putin to ask him to get Belarus to stop the “inhumane” instrumentalisation of migrants, her spokesman said Wednesday.

Belarus and Moscow have hit back at the accusations, saying the West should deal with migrant flows caused by its military interventions in the Middle East.

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