Europe

Political spat leaves Afghans trapped on Polish-Belarusian border

A Polish refugee support network has raised the alarm over almost three dozen Afghans who are trapped between Poland and Belarus by a political stand-off.

The group has been stuck on the Polish side of the border near the village of Usnarz Górny for 12 days now, Fundacja Ocalenie (Salvation Foundation) said.

Polish authorities are refusing to let the group advance to apply for asylum because of a recent spat with Belarus over the latter allegedly allowing a flood of migrants to pass as revenge for EU sanctions.

Among those stuck in the makeshift camp is a 15-year-old Afghan girl, and several who are reportedly unwell. In a tweet on Friday, the organisation listed all their names in a bid to draw attention to their plight.

Fundacja Ocalenie members had first arrived on Wednesday to bring them food, tents, sleeping bags and power banks. The team said border guards had not let them get past until Thursday.

Piotr Bystrianin, president of Ocalenie’s management board, said: “In accordance with the law in force in Poland, each of these people should be allowed to submit an application for protection.”

Left-wing Polish MP Maciej Konieczny, who joined the humanitarian workers at the border, added: “It is an inhumane and scandalous situation that Poland, together with Belarus, condemns these people to imprisonment on the border, in conditions that offend human dignity and are life-threatening.”

Belarusian guards will not let the Afghans return to their side of the border either. President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, which forms part of the EU’s external border, has recently been accused of sending migrants into other countries in an act of “hybrid war.”

Poland has recently deployed hundreds of soldiers to the border and is reinforcing it with barbed wire. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Thursday that he sympathised with the migrants, but insisted they were “a tool in the hands of Mr Lukashenko”.

He vowed that Poland would not succumb to what he called “this type of blackmail”.

On Friday lawyers for Ocalenie gathered at the site to issue verbal applications for protection on behalf of the migrants, speaking through a megaphone.

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