Polish police said they have found the body of a Syrian migrant near the border with Belarus, the latest death among people trying to cross the European Union’s eastern border through dense forest and swamps.
Bialystok police spokesman Tomasz Krupa said on Thursday that a police helicopter spotted the man’s body in a field the previous day. Documents found on the body indicated he was a 24-year-old Syrian man, who had been in Belarus since mid-September.
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Prosecutors are investigating the death.
At least six other migrants have died of exhaustion at the Polish-Belarusian border since August, when large numbers of people from Iraq, Iran, Syria and Afghanistan, but also from Africa started trying to cross there.
Hoping to eventually reach Germany, they became stranded in the wooded border strip with no food or protection from the elements.
Poland has said Minsk is behind the arrival of people, offering free tourist visas and easy flights to Belarus, as part of a “hybrid war” on the EU in response to the bloc’s sanctions on President Alexander Lukashenko’s government after he claimed victory in last year’s election which his opponents and Western countries say was rigged.
Poland’s border guards and military are turning migrants back to Belarus.
Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned Belarusian charge d’affaires Alexander Chesnovski on Thursday over the situation at the border.
Polish authorities said that, so far this month, there have been 6,700 hindered attempts to cross the border, and a total of more than 10,000 since August. Another 1,500 people were detained inside Poland and taken to guarded facilities.
They can apply for international protection there, or for asylum, which would cover all of EU territory, if granted. But in most cases, it is denied and the migrants are sent back to the country they entered Poland from.
A report published last week by the Amsterdam-based investigative news organisation Lighthouse Reports revealed that masked security forces and police units in the three EU member states – Croatia, Greece and Romania – carried out hundreds of illegal pushback operations at the EU’s external borders since early 2020, as part of a “violent campaign” to deny access to asylum seekers.
Polish authorities have faced criticism from human rights groups for not accepting asylum seekers, and for denying those at the border adequate medical care. Warsaw has said they are the responsibility of the Belarusian authorities.