Polish police have blocked hundreds of people from entering the country after Belarusian authorities escorted them to the border. Poland and other EU countries have accused Belarus of trying to provoke a new refugee crisis in Europe in revenge for their criticism of Alexander Lukashenko’s brutal crackdown on domestic opposition. Minsk has reportedly issued special visas allowing migrants to fly into Belarus from Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries.
Meanwhile, German Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer has accused Belarus and Russia of exploiting refugees and migrants in an attempt to destabilise the west, and said EU countries must stand together in the face of a “hybrid threat” posed by “politically organised migration”. He said,“The Poles have reacted correctly so far”. We cannot criticise them for securing the EU’s external border with admissible means. The Poles are fulfilling a very important service for the whole of Europe.”
EU countries “must stand together, because Lukashenko is using people’s fates with the support of Russian president Vladimir Putin to destabilise the west.” “Poland or Germany can’t handle this alone. We must help the Polish government secure their external border. This would actually be the task of the European Commission. I’m now appealing to them to take action,” he said.
Seehofer’s deputy, Stephan Mayer, said that “Germany could send police very promptly to support Poland if Poland wants that”.
A Polish government spokesperson said a further 3,000 to 4,000 migrants were gathering near the border. “We expect that there may be an escalation of this type of action on the Polish border in the near future, which will be of an armed nature,” he said.
Poland has sent thousands of soldiers to the border area, created a two-mile deep militarised zone, built a razor-wire fence and approved the construction of a border wall. It is also enforcing a state of emergency in the region complete with a media blackout.Hundreds of people spent the night in tents in a camp along the border overnight, gathering firewood and lighting campfires as temperatures fell below freezing.
During clashes on Monday, video footage emerged that appeared to show an armed Polish officer spraying chemicals at men who were trying to cut the razor-wire border fence. Others tried to clear the fence by climbing long wooden poles or branches. Polish police were hit with objects thrown from the Belarusian side as helicopters hovered above.
There have been no repeats of Monday’s clashes, although the situation remained tense. On the Belarusian side, guards have been searching cars and buses approaching the border area and reportedly fired warning shots to prevent more people from joining the camp.
Paweł Soloch, the head of Poland’s National Security Bureau, said that “in the coming hours attacks on our border will be renewed by groups of several hundred people”.