According to Warsaw media, 32 people from Afghanistan have been camping in the open air on or at the border line for days near the Polish town of Usnarz-Górny on the border with Belarus. You came through Belarus and want to continue to the EU. But a few meters west of their makeshift camp in this wooded area is a guard of the Polish border guard; to the east is the Belarusian. So they can neither go back nor forward. First, the private broadcaster TVN24 reported on the incident. Then the Polish aid organization “Ocalenie” (rescue) intervened. A few days ago, the helpers said, women and children from Iraq were there in addition to the Afghans. "The Belarusians have allowed people with small children to return," wrote the organization on Twitter on Thursday.

Gerhard Gnauck

Political correspondent for Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania based in Warsaw.

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On Thursday, a member of the left-wing party “Razem” (Together) managed to give the migrants food, sleeping bags and forms to make it easier for them to apply for asylum in Poland through Polish middlemen. The aid organization announced that the migrants had not eaten for 24 hours. In the meantime, Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has also spoken out. In connection with the two flights so far with which former employees of the Polish troops were brought from Afghanistan, as well as the migration via Belarus, he wrote vaguely on Facebook: “We are ready to let more people in.” However, they would have to be correctly identified, which is difficult is because, according to descriptions of migrants, they have to hand in their papers to smugglers in Belarus or throw them away.

"A political instrument of the Lukashenko regime"

"I feel sincere pity for these refugees, who are in an extremely difficult situation," wrote Morawiecki.

“But it must be clearly stated that they are a political instrument in the hands of the Belarusian Lukashenko regime.” Lukashenko had threatened the EU with migration flows several times this year.

Poland, according to Morawiecki, will “not give in to this blackmail” and will react decisively.

"We have to work out new procedures throughout the European Union, because the methods used earlier were flawed and led nowhere," he said, apparently referring to European asylum and migration policy.

Initially, since around June, Poland's small neighbor Lithuania on the EU's eastern border had been the main destination for migrants. By mid-August, around 4,100 people from Asian and African countries, around half of them from Iraq, had come to the EU on the 680-kilometer, largely “green” border with Belarus. The Afghans among them had apparently traveled several days in the back of trucks. Lithuania tried, with the help of the EU border protection agency Frontex, to deter migrants with increased patrols and rolls of barbed wire.

But it was not until the massive rejection of migrants at the green border this month that the number of border crossings was reduced to almost zero. Now many migrants, possibly "assisted" by the Belarusian border guards, are concentrating on crossing the Belarus-Poland border. This also leads through forest and wetlands, but is only 418 kilometers long and slightly better paved than the one to Lithuania. There were only 122 illegal border crossings here in the entire year 2020. The Ministry of the Interior in Warsaw, which is responsible for the Polish border guards, announced that from August 1st to 17th “2,100 people tried to illegally cross the Polish-Belarusian border.

In 1342 of these cases, the border guard thwarted an attempt to cross the border;

758 foreigners were arrested and detained in refugee centers operated by the border guards. ”In addition, from the beginning of July to August 17, 380 foreigners were transferred to their countries of origin or to a third country, the ministry wrote without giving any details.

Above all, human rights activists describe the rejections as unlawful and inhumane.

Thousands of Polish soldiers for border protection

According to the government in Warsaw, not only are additional border guards deployed, but also a thousand soldiers on the border with Belarus to reinforce them. "So far, almost 100 kilometers of the border have been secured with barbed wire barriers," said the Interior Ministry in Warsaw, and another 50 kilometers are planned. Poland's right-wing government also recalled that it “opposed illegal and uncontrolled migration from the start”. People who “could pose a threat to our citizens” are not allowed to enter.

In addition, Poland sent border guards and a helicopter to support Lithuania as part of the Frontex cooperation. At the end of August, another 50 police officers would be deployed at the request of Lithuania. Warsaw also wants to "accelerate the procedures in cases of illegal border crossings" and "adapt" the regulations for this purpose.