Belarus says thousands of migrants ‘legally’ at Polish border

Moscow/Brussels, Nov 9 (EFE).- Thousands of migrants woke to a heavily fortified Polish border fence Tuesday as Minsk’s interior minister assured they are in Belarus legally.

“There have been no violations of the law on the part of migrants so far. They are staying in Belarus legally,” Ivan Kubrakov was quoted as saying by the official Belarusian news agency BelTA.

More than 2,000 refugees, including many from the Middle East and with small children in the mix, arrived at the border on Monday escorted by Belarusian authorities.

After they were blocked from entering Poland, they set up tents on the edge of the forest in front of the barbed-wire border.

In a Tuesday morning tweet, Polish police wrote that the night had passed “relatively calmly” and published footage of tents with campfires still burning as officers in helmets and riot equipment faced the border fence.

Meanwhile, European Parliament President David Sassoli, asked Poland accept the help of the European Union’s border control agency to prevent an escalation of the crisis, and demanded that “the Belarusian regime must stop exploiting migrants and asylum seekers for political power games.”

To try to stem the flow, European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, in coordination with the High Representative for EU Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, will travel “in the coming days” to the main origin and transit countries “to ensure that they act to prevent their own nationals from falling into the trap set by the Belarusian authorities,” EC President Ursula von der Leyen said late Monday.

“Our urgent priority is to turn off the supply coming into Minsk airport,” said EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, blaming Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for “trapping people at the border” and “putting people including children, in danger, in freezing conditions.”

Turkey, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates are among the countries estimated to be the main points of origin for flights landing in Minsk.

Belarus’ neighbors Poland, Latvia and Lithuania have declared a state of emergency in recent months due to the increase in irregular migration from the country.

Those countries and the EU accuse Lukashenko of provoking the new migration crisis in revenge for those countries’ support for the Belarusian opposition in exile and Lukashenko’s crackdown against it.

Lukashenko denies all criticism, but has alerted the EU to a looming humanitarian catastrophe due to the concentration of migrants at the bloc’s borders ahead of winter. EFE


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