Polish lawmakers on Friday gave the go-ahead for the construction of a controversial wall on the EU member’s eastern border with Belarus, in response to an unprecedented wave of immigrants, mainly from the Middle East.
The wall will cost about 353 million euros ($ 407 million) and is slated to span more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) on the eastern border of the European Union.
Polish President Andrzej Duda promised to sign the emergency legislation in the next few days.
Thousands of migrants and refugees, mostly from the Middle East and Africa, have tried to cross the Polish border from Belarus since August.
The EU accuses Minsk of orchestrating the wave of migrants in retaliation for sanctions on President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime for its crackdown on its opponents.
Poland has responded to the unprecedented influx by sending thousands of soldiers to the border and implementing a state of emergency there, in addition to hastily building a barbed wire fence.
Warsaw has come under fire for its hard-line approach to the crisis, which has seen guards routinely push migrants and refugees back at the border. Non-governmental organizations have warned of increasingly dangerous conditions.
Poland was one of 12 member states that asked the EU to pay for border “barriers” to prevent immigrants from entering, but last week EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said no.
Von der Leyen, the EU chief executive, said she told leaders at a summit in Brussels that there was a long-standing position “that there will be no funding for barbed wire and barbed walls.”
Insisting that Poland is “under attack” by Belarus, nationalist Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Thursday that the wall was essential to “protect” Poland and that Warsaw “had not asked anyone for help.”
The Polish state of emergency, which prevents journalists and charities from approaching the border, has been particularly controversial and the EU has called for “transparency.”
The United Nations has demanded urgent action to save lives and prevent suffering on the EU-Belarus border, following the death of several asylum seekers.