Poland says migrants continue to cross from Belarus despite Minsk steps

Poland said on Tuesday that groups of migrants had made new attempts to cross the border from Belarus and it would be premature to say that the worst of the crisis on the eastern border of the European Union had passed.

Border Guard spokeswoman Anna Michalska said about 50 migrants attempted to cross Monday night, and 18 managed to briefly cross the barbed wire barrier.

Another group of similar size gathered but eventually gave up trying to cross elsewhere.

European countries have for months accused Belarus of manipulating the migration crisis by bringing in migrants from the Middle East and pressuring them to try to cross illegally into the EU via Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

Belarus cleared migrant camps on the border last week and allowed the first repatriation flight to Iraq in months. Some 120 migrants had left the country on Monday and more would follow on Tuesday, the Belarusian Interior Ministry said.

A Syrian migrant is kidnapped by Polish border guards in the forest after being rescued with her brother by activists near the country’s border with Belarus, near the city of Siemiatycze, Poland. (credit: MARKO DJURICA / REUTERS)

But Warsaw authorities said new incidents at the border showed that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has not given up on his plans to use thousands of migrants fleeing the Middle East and other hotspots as a weapon in the confrontation with the EU.

“Tactics and methods are changing and perhaps the new wave will be less spectacular … but this does not mean that the situation is calming down,” Stanislaw Zaryn, spokesman for Poland’s special services, told a news conference.

“There are repeated attempts to cross the border and they will continue.”

Polish authorities estimate that around 10,000 or more immigrants could still be in Belarus, he said, creating the possibility of further problems.

Neighboring Lithuania echoed the sentiment.

“The situation is stable but it remains tense … it will remain complicated for a long time,” Lithuanian presidential national security adviser Darius Kuliesius told Ziniu radio.

Lukashenko, who denies allegations that he fueled the crisis, has lobbied the EU and Germany, in particular, to accept some migrants while Belarus repatriates others, a demand the bloc has roundly rejected so far.

Humanitarian agencies say as many as 13 migrants have died at the border, where many have suffered in a cold, wet forest with little food or water as the freezing winter begins and Tuesday brought the first snow since the crisis began.


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