Poland has accused Belarus of continuing to ferry migrants to its border despite clearing camps close to the frontier earlier this week, as the country’s prime minister started a tour of Baltic states to seek support in the crisis.
The European Union has accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of deliberately attempting to flood the bloc with migrants and refugees in retaliation for sanctions against the country as well as the EU’s refusal to recognise Lukashenko’s legitimacy after a disputed presidential election last year.
Minsk, which denies fomenting the crisis, cleared a migrant camp near the border on Thursday and started to repatriate some people to Iraq in an apparent change in tack in the conflict that has mushroomed into a major confrontation.
Yet Poland says Minsk continues to truck hundreds of migrants and refugees to the frontier, where about 10 are believed to have died with winter setting in.
“On Saturday … a group of about 100 very aggressive foreigners, brought to the border by Belarusian servicemen, tried to enter Poland by force. (Polish) services prevented the crossing,” the Polish Border Guard said on Twitter on Sunday.
The border guard said the incident took place shortly before midnight on Saturday near the Polish village of Czeremcha. Belarusian security forces drove the group to the border in a truck and provided them with wooden boards to get over the barbed wire, a spokesperson for the Polish border guard said, adding that the guards were pelted with stones and blinded with laser beams.
According to the spokesperson, there had been 208 attempts by refugees and migrants to enter Poland from Belarus on Saturday – a few more than on Friday but well below the 501 attempts recorded on Wednesday.
Since Poland does not allow journalists into the area, the data cannot be independently verified.
Neighbouring Lithuania said 44 migrants were prevented from entering on Saturday, the lowest number in a week.
A dozen migrants from Iraq, speaking with Lithuanian news portal DELFI over the border with Belarus on Saturday, said they were forcibly brought there in military trucks by Belarus officials, who ignored their wish to go back to Iraq.
Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki visited Estonia on Sunday morning to discuss the crisis with his counterpart Kaja Kallas. He will travel to Lithuania and Latvia later in the day.
“Today, on Poland’s eastern border, we are dealing with a new type of war, a war in which migrants are weapons, in which disinformation is a weapon, a hybrid war,” Morawiecki said, adding further economic sanctions against Minsk were being discussed.
A poll by SW Research published by Rzeczpospolita daily on Sunday showed 55.1 percent of Poles are worried the crisis on the border could escalate into a regular armed conflict.
However, hundreds took part in protests in Warsaw and close to the Belarusian border on Saturday to demand help for the refugees and migrants.