Poland claims neighbor invites migrants, pushes them across

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s prime minister insisted Tuesday that efforts by Middle Eastern migrants to enter the European Union country from neighboring Belarus are part of a plot by the Minsk regime to sow political instability in the EU.

Mateusz Morawiecki spoke in Kuznica, in the east, during a visit to the Border Guards securing Poland’s — also the EU’s — border with Belarus.

Almost 3,000 migrants have tried to enter illegally from Belarus this month alone, and a group of some 30 people — including from Afghanistan and Iraq — have remained at the border, sleeping outdoors for over two weeks. Poland is denying them entry, saying they are political pawns in the hands of Belarusian authorities.

“Our eastern neighbor is trying systematically, and in an organized way, to destabilize the political situation,” Morawiecki said.

He said his government had knowledge of “advertisements” that encourage Iraqis to go to Belarus, who are then escorted to the border with Poland and “forced by Belarusian officers to cross the Belarus-Poland border.” Morawiecki didn’t provide further details.

He said these efforts will fail because “Poland’s border will be very well protected.”

Morawiecki ‘s comments Tuesday follow repeated claims by Poland and the Baltic states that also border Belarus that the government in Minsk is encouraging migrants to cross into their countries. They say it’s in retaliation for the European Union imposing sanctions on Belarusian officials over the crackdown on dissent following the disputed reelection of President Alexander Lukashenko in Aug. 2020.

Earlier Tuesday, Poland’s government said it sent tents, blankets, power generators and other items to help the group of refugees and migrants who are stuck at the border.

Polish officials insisted that the group remains on Belarusian territory and will not be allowed into Poland. They said an aid transport convoy the government sent was waiting at the border for permission to enter Belarus.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, said it was in contact with Polish authorities and closely monitoring the developments at the border.

“We firmly reject attempts to instrumentalize people for political purposes,” spokesman Christian Wigand said in Brussels. “We cannot accept any attempts by third countries to incite or acquiesce in illegal migration” towards the EU.

Wigand also stressed the need for “orderly border management” and “full respect for migrants’ fundamental rights.”

Opposition politicians and humanitarian organizations have criticized Poland’s right-wing government for not helping the stranded migrants who were sleeping in the open.

The U.N.’s refugee agency has appealed to Poland to let the group in and provide medical and legal assistance.

But Warsaw is refusing to do so.

“If we accept this group, the next moment we will have not 10 or 20…but 1,000, 2,000 and 10,000” people trying to enter, Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz said.

“We must not forget that this is … intentionally directed at Poland, somewhat in the spirit of revenge for our assistance to the civic society in Belarus,” Przydacz said.

Poland has granted refuge to dissidents who fled Belarus.

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