Europe

Poland wants state of emergency declared over Belarus border migrants

Poland’s government has asked the country”s president to declare a state of emergency over increased migration levels along its border with Belarus.

Thousands of migrants, mostly from the Middle East, have tried to illegally cross from neighbouring Belarus in recent months.

The Polish government cited the potential risk from foreign actors and the actions of protesters in Poland as rationales for the declaration.

The European Union has accused Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko of pushing migrants into the bloc to create instability, in retaliation against EU sanctions.

“The council of ministers has decided to ask the president to declare a 30-day state of emergency,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters on Tuesday.

“We have to stop these aggressive hybrid actions, which are carried out according to a script written in Minsk and sponsored by Lukashenko.”

The Polish executive has asked for the declaration to be made in 183 separate towns and villages along the border.

The state of emergency would prohibit demonstrations of any kind and would force anyone in the country to carry identification, according to the government statement.

But authorities say the declaration would have “no interference in the daily life of residents, nor in their agricultural work”.

The country’s president Andrzej Duda — an ally of the government — is due to speak at a news conference later on Tuesday.

Polish border guards said that more than 3,200 people tried to cross illegally into Poland from Belarus in August alone.

Meanwhile, more than 30 people from Afghanistan have been stuck for more than three weeks between armed Belarusian guards on one side and armed Polish forces on the other.

Some are ill as they have limited access to food and the weather is getting worse, with recent rain and falling temperatures.

Poland insists the group is on Belarusian soil and will not let the migrants approach Polish territory or request asylum.

Over the weekend, 13 people from the activist group, Obywatele RP (Citizens of Poland), were detained for trying to cut a new barbed-wire barrier going up on the border. Poland has also deployed hundreds of soldiers to reinforce border guards.

Poland’s Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski has also noted that Russian military maneuvers are set to begin in neighbouring Belarus in September.

Speaking alongside the prime minister on Tuesday, Kaminski warned of the “possibly incredibly tense” situation at the border.

“We have to take into account various types of provocations. It is about the safety of our residents,” he said.

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