Right now the situation at the border between Poland and Belarus is being called a “hybrid attack,” and the situation is likely to escalate quickly, to the point that on Thursday, Polish president Andrzej Duda approved the declaration of a state of emergency for 30 days and the Polish army is about to be sent to defend the border.
The reason for the growing tensions is the attempts by the regime led by Alexandr Lukashenko to push hundreds of migrants to cross the borders of Lithuania, Latvia and Poland, in retaliation against the European Union for the sanctions adopted against Minsk. This “hybrid attack” has been ongoing for months, so much so that at the summit of Interior Ministers held in Brussels on Tuesday, the Polish minister insisted that the final declaration should also include a reference to the emergency at the Union’s eastern borders.
In the meantime, official statements have taken on increasingly hostile tones: “Exceptional measures are needed” to secure against the migratory movements that have emerged “in a planned and organized manner by President Lukashenko’s regime,” explained Piotr Muller, a spokesman for the Polish government, in an interview on Polskie Radio 24 on Wednesday. “We already know that most probably around 10,000 migrants, including from Iraq, are in Belarus. They were transported there in an organized manner” with the plan being, “most probably, [for all of them] to cross the borders of Poland, Latvia and Lithuania … in an organized manner.” Muller added. “We cannot allow that to happen.”
Needless to say, those bearing the brunt of the consequences of this situation are obviously the migrants themselves, treated like objects to be shuffled back and forth by both states. One example is that of the 32 refugees, half of them Afghans, who for three weeks have been blocked at the Polish border near the town of Usnarz Gorny and kept under constant surveillance by the Polish authorities, who are also preventing them from receiving medical assistance. These are people who would have every right to enter Poland, as established by a recent ruling of the European Court of Human Rights.
While the European Union prepares new sanctions against Belarus (“We will continue fighting against this terrible instrumentalization of migrants and human misery by the Lukashenko regime,” Luc Devigne, a senior official of the European External Action Service on Thursday, stressed on Thursday), Warsaw is taking measures in the form of starting the construction of a 187-kilometer-long barrier along the border with Belarus, alerting the army and declaring a state of emergency, which is expected to come into force on Monday after the approval of Parliament, as required by law. The situation is “difficult and dangerous,” a spokesman for the president explained. “Today, we as Poland, being responsible for our own borders, but also for the borders of the European Union, must take measures to ensure the security of Poland and the European Union.”
The new restrictive rules will affect 183 towns near the border. For one month, non-residents will not be allowed within an area that extends up to three kilometers from the border, where everyone will be prohibited from organizing rallies or demonstrations and from making videos that would show the appearance or characteristics of the places, objects and border areas and the people who are guarding them. “We will not allow Poland to become another route for illegal mass immigration into the European Union.,” said Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski.
But it is not only migrants who are arousing concern in Poland. Warsaw also fears possible provocations that might occur during the scheduled military exercises of about 200,000 Russian and Belarusian soldiers, a few kilometers from the border.