By Miguel Ángel Gayo Macías
Sokólka, Poland, Nov 19 (EFE).- The Polish town of Sokólka, just 15 kilometers from Belarus, has found itself at the center of the ongoing border crisis, which has forced it to shut schools as it became overrun with security and police forces deployed to intercept migrants.
“For us it is a shock, something abnormal, to see our tiny town in the center of an international crisis,” the owner of an accommodation center in this community of less than 20,000 people, told Efe.
“Every day there are stories about migrants, about what could happen,” she added. “It’s like there is an official curfew, you can see that there is no-one in the street after 4pm, and yes, we are scared.”
The main road toward Belarus is now used almost exclusively by military vehicles, transport vehicles and police cars driving at pace with the sirens blaring.
The majority of the violent border altercations have taken place in the nearby town of Kuznica, the last stop on Polish soil before the border with Belarus.
On Tuesday a group of several hundred migrants who had been camped out in the forested area on the Belarusian side of the frontier for weeks began to attack the border fence with sticks and stones and launching smoke bombs at Polish guards.
The Polish defense ministry later claimed the assault was orchestrated by Belarusian security agents, who it said were responsible for firing the projectiles and coordinating the attempted breach.
A store clerk told Efe that town residents are now afraid to venture into the woods after dark. “It’s like in the fairytales,” she added.
“The soldiers and police don’t want to see anyone walking through there. Young people, for example, are no longer going there to drink with friends and are meeting up at home instead.”
Although the migrant camps around Kuznica have been dismantled, as per videos shared by the Polish defense ministry, the situation remains unstable and there is a feeling that Sokólka could yet be placed under a form of lockdown.
Many humanitarian agencies have made Sokólka their temporary headquarters.
Migrants who were able to make it across the border have used the forested area around the town to hide from security. The area is part of the Bialowieza national park, known for its dense, primeval forest. EFE