Krakow, Poland, Nov 18 (EFE).- Polish authorities said Thursday that security forces repelled an attempt by Middle Eastern migrants to breach a fence on the border with Belarus.
In addition to the concerted attack on a segment of the barrier in the Dubicze Cerkiewne zone, officers thwarted 501 attempted crossings by individual migrants and expelled 31 people to Belarus, Poland’s defense ministry said.
More than 2,000 mainly Middle Eastern migrants hoping to enter the European Union have spent days trying to cross into EU member Poland from a makeshift camp on the Belarusian side of the border amid accusations that Minsk engineered a crisis in reprisal for Western sanctions against President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s government.
Belarus denies the charges.
On Thursday, Belarus state television said that the camp had been cleared, a claim confirmed by Poland’s border security agency.
“The campsite near the border crossing in Bruzgi (Belarus) was deserted. The Belarusian services sent the foreigners to the transport and logistics center located several hundred meters away,” the Polish agency said.
Belarusian officials said the migrants were moved indoors because of the harsh winter weather.
Roughly 100 migrants took part in the overnight assault on the border fence, the defense ministry said, adding that Belarusian forces “obliged the migrants to throw stones” at the Polish guards.
Nine Polish police officers were injured, one of them seriously, two days ago when a large number migrants tried to storm the border at Kuznica.
In a related development, Poland’s parliament approved on Wednesday a bill that would allow the government to restrict access to designated areas along the border, excluding all but residents and people who work in the zones with only limited exceptions.
Lukashenko’s press secretary, Natalya Eismont, said following the president’s telephone converation Thursday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that some 7,000 refugees were on Belarusian soil, including the contingent in Bruzgi.
This week’s exchanges between Merkel and Lukashenko gave rise to a story that Germany had agreed to accept 2,000 of the Middle Eastern migrants now in Belarus, but German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer dismissed the report Thursday as “fake news.”
The discussions with Lukashenko have focused on providing humanitarian aid to the refugees on the territory of Belarus, Seehofer said while on an official visit to Poland, denying that Merkel was negotiating with Minsk over the heads of the Poles.
Thursday also saw the arrival in Erbil, Iraq, of 431 Iraqis returning from Belarus aboard a flight chartered by Iraq’s government, while in Bohoniki, Poland, a Muslim imam presided over the funeral of an unidentified African migrant.
Bohoniki is home to a community of Muslim Tatars who settled in Poland centuries ago and the African was the second migrant to be laid to rest in the town cemetery. EFE