Europe 1 with AFP 6:55 p.m., November 10, 2021

The tension does not weaken between Poland and Belarus, accused of "state terrorism" Wednesday by Warsaw, which returned hundreds of migrants, especially Iraqi Kurds, having crossed its eastern border.

While the major capitals are busy trying to defuse the crisis, on the ground, the situation remains precarious.

DECRYPTION

The crisis at the eastern borders of the European Union.

In western Belarus, more than 2,000 migrants have been camping in freezing weather for several days in a wooded area where, for its part, Poland has deployed a fence of sharp barbed wire and no less than 15,000 soldiers to block their way. .

For its part, Minsk accuses Poland of blocking migrants at the border, while Germany asks Vladimir Putin to intervene amid escalating diplomatic tensions.

What is the situation on the ground?

Several thousand migrants wanting to reach Europe are stranded along the some 400 kilometers of border between Belarus and Poland, including more than 2,000 in a makeshift camp opposite the Polish village of Kuznica. These people, including children and women, make a living in difficult conditions. At night, temperatures drop below zero degrees Celsius. According to Polish authorities, groups attempted Tuesday and Wednesday to force the border at several points.

Videos released by Polish authorities show some migrants using tree trunks as rams to tear down the barbed-wire-topped fence erected by Warsaw at the border.

At least ten people have died in recent weeks, including seven on Polish soil, according to the daily

Gazeta Wyborcza

.

Where do migrants come from?

These are mainly people who have fled conflicts or misery in the Middle East or Africa.

Many of them are Kurds from northern Iraq.

Over the past three months, 1,600 people have reached Belarus on a tourist visa from Iraqi Kurdistan, according to the Kurdistan Refugees Association.

People from Syria, a country at war for ten years, are also present at the border.

A Polish woman who comes to the aid of migrants there also told AFP that she had seen nationals of Yemen, Côte d'Ivoire and even Cuba.

Why is the EU blaming Belarus?

Brussels accuses the authoritarian Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of having orchestrated this migratory crisis in revenge for the Western sanctions imposed on his regime for the brutal repression of demonstrations last year. Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus with an iron fist since 1994, refutes these accusations. But, at the end of May, he warned Europeans that Belarus would no longer stop "drugs and migrants" on their way to Europe.

Warsaw accuses Minsk of issuing transit visas to nationals of several countries in order to attract candidates for exile, to transport them to the border and even to provide them with tools to cut the fence.

Alexander Lukashenko is accused of playing on Europe's fear of a massive influx of migrants, very keen since the crisis of the summer of 2015 during which several hundred thousand people had reached Greece from neighboring Turkey.

In early 2020, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also played on this fear by letting tens of thousands of migrants pass to the Greek border.

How is Poland reacting?

Faced with the influx of migrants, Warsaw denounced an "attack" on Minsk, beefed up its device at the border, where it deployed some 15,000 soldiers, and decided to build a wall.

Poland has also imposed a state of emergency in the border area and authorized its security forces to turn back migrants.

One of the questions concerns the cooperation between Poland and the European Union, whose relations are very tense, Brussels being worried about the situation of the rule of law in this member country.

European Council President Charles Michel traveled to Warsaw on Wednesday to meet with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

The UN Security Council is meeting urgently on Thursday to address this issue.   

Russia, solution or problem?

Accused by Poland of being the "sponsor" of this crisis, Russia, Belarus' main support, has remained relatively discreet until then.

Aware of Moscow's influence over Minsk, the EU and Germany on Wednesday called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to intervene to end the crisis.

Weakened by Western sanctions, the regime of Alexander Lukashenko is heavily dependent on financial and politico-military support from Russia.

But Vladimir Putin, who has been trying for several months to get a new gas pipeline from Berlin, is for the moment turning a deaf ear, limiting himself to calling for dialogue.

Moscow also invited Europe to provide financial assistance to Minsk to take care of the migrants.

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