Poland says Belarus border crisis could be prelude to “something worse”


WARSAW / VILNIUS, Nov.21 (Reuters) – Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Sunday warned that the migrant crisis on the Belarusian border could be the prelude to “something much worse,” and the Polish border guard said that Belarusian forces were still transporting migrants to the border.

The European Union accuses Belarus of airlifting thousands of people from the Middle East and pushing them through EU and NATO members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia in response to European sanctions.

Minsk, which denies fomenting the crisis, cleared a migrant camp near the border on Thursday and started repatriating some people to Iraq, while Poland and Lithuania reported a drop in the number of attempts to cross their borders the last days.

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But Morawiecki warned the crisis was far from over as he visited Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia on Sunday to discuss the situation.

A poll published on Sunday by the Polish daily Rzeczpospolita revealed that 55% of Poles fear the border crisis could degenerate into armed conflict.

“I think that the things that are unfolding before our eyes, these dramatic events, are perhaps just a prelude to something much worse,” Morawiecki said in Vilnius.

He pointed to Russia’s increased military presence near Ukraine, as well as in Belarus and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad which borders Poland and Lithuania, as “an instrument that could be used directly for direct attack. “.

The situation in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover “could be used as the next step in the migration crisis,” Morawiecki said.

Belarusian servicemen stand next to a barrier as migrants scramble for food outside the transport and logistics center near the Belarusian-Polish border in Grodno, Belarus, on November 21, 2021. REUTERS / Kacper Pempel

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CALLS FOR SUPPORT

Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte has warned European partners not to ignore Belarus’s neighbors, after German Chancellor Angela Merkel twice called on Lukashenko to find a solution to the humanitarian crisis.

“For us, it is very important that all discussions (with Belarus) are coordinated with Lithuania, Poland and Latvia, which are at the forefront of the hybrid attack, and that no decision is taken that does not fundamentally solve the situation, ”she said. after meeting Morawiecki on Sunday.

France’s foreign minister said on Sunday that Russia must put pressure on its ally, Belarus, to end the migrant crisis.

FORCED TO THE BORDER

Poland says Minsk continues to transport hundreds of foreigners to the border, where a dozen migrants are believed to have died in a freezing winter.

“On Saturday (…) a group of around a hundred very aggressive foreigners, brought to the border by Belarusian soldiers, attempted to enter Poland by force,” the border guard said on Twitter on Sunday.

A dozen Iraqi migrants, speaking to Lithuanian news portal DELFI over the border with Belarus on Saturday, said they were forcibly taken there in military trucks by Belarusian officials, who ignored their wish to return to Iraq.

Hundreds of Poles took part in demonstrations on Saturday asking for help from migrants. The Catholic Church organized a fundraiser on Sunday to collect money for people in need at the border and to support the integration of refugees who will remain in Poland.

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Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk in Warsaw and Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Raissa Kasolowsky

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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