Poland declares state of emergency on Belarus border

Published on : Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Poland

Poland recently declared a state of emergency on the Belarus border due to a surge in migration and upcoming Russian-led military exercises. As per the stringent rule, large gatherings along Poland’s border with Belarus have been banned and movement has been limited for 30 days in the area. Poland has reportedly accused Belarus of inducing migrants to fly there on the false promise of legal entry to the EU.

However, Belarus is not an EU member although it borders three EU member countries. On Monday, September 6, 2021, Polish MPs voted to approve the law, though many opposition politicians said the emergency measures were disproportionate as close to 200 towns in a 3km (2 mile) strip along the border are now off limits.

Several critics mentioned that the government is allegedly trying to cover up a practice of pushing people seeking asylum back into Belarus by barring journalists in the area. Poland and fellow EU states Lithuania and Latvia have seen massive increases in migrants from Iraq, Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern and Asian countries since the start of the summer.

Last month alone, Polish border guards detained eight times as many people crossing the border illegally as they did in the whole of 2020. The EU has accused Belarus’s authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko of engineering the migrant influx as a form of retaliation against sanctions. The Belarusian government has denied the allegations and blamed Western politicians for the situation on the border.

Speaking in parliament before Monday’s vote, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that the country is dealing with a wide-ranging political provocation. He also addressed concerns about large joint Russian and Belarussian military exercises that are due to start near the Polish border from Friday alongside the migration issue.

The Zapad-2021 drills will be held at training grounds in Russia and Belarus and will be based on a scenario in which those countries come under attack. Local media said the drills will involve about 200,000 people, and more than 80 planes and helicopters. Russia and Belarus have insisted that the drills are defensive in nature.

But Poland, the Baltic States and Ukraine are sceptical of their intentions. Addressing MPs, Mr Morawiecki said an attack “might be probable”, warning that this was “not only a diplomatic conflict”. Human rights campaigners have also expressed concern about migrants with no shelter stuck on the border between Poland and Belarus.

Protests against the treatment of migrants at the border were held outside parliament ahead of Monday’s vote. Poland has also laid barbed-wire coils and is building a solid fence along its border with Belarus, where hundreds of troops have been sent. Lithuania and Latvia have taken similar steps to reinforce their borders with Belarus.

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