The Crisis at the Belarus-Poland Border and Why You Should Care


As many migrants try to enter Poland from Belarus, police force them away. One Syrian seeking asylum, upon his third attempt to cross the border from Belarus to Poland, told reporters at CNN that he was beaten, suffering from a broken nose and other injuries by Polish police. 

 

Many Syrians who are seeking asylum in the European Union are victims of poverty, mostly due to COVD-19 and a constantly raging civil war in the country. More than 80% of Syrian families live in extreme poverty, making less than $1.90 USD every day according to the United Nations Office for the Coordinations of Human Affairs (UNOCHA). Many Syrian families seeking asylum in Poland are fighting to raise their children in a peaceful world.

 

According to the BBC, as of November 25 roughly 3,868 migrants travelled from Iraq – 590 from Afghanistan, 265 from Syria, 270 from Congo-Brazzaville, and 182 from Russia. Most of these migrants are flying from Turkey and Iran straight to Minsk, Belarus. The European Commission has accused Belarus of baiting migrants to Minsk, promising safe and easy entry to the European Union. 

 

In wake of recent events, roughly 15,000 Polish troops were deployed to secure the border. The Belarusian Defence Ministry accused Poland of “unprecedented” military buildup in the region, saying that the force used is not warranted for migration control. 

 

Near Szudzialowo, a village located at the border, migrants attacked a Polish soldier with a tree branch whilst Polish authorities were firing gunshots in the air in an attempt to force migrants away from the barbed wire fencing. The attacked soldier fired two more warning shots into the sky, according to the Polish Ministry of Defense. Recently, Polish authorities have been using water cannons and attacking aid workers trying to provide the migrants with first aid and other resources, according to the New York Times.

Violence was on the rise in the region, and the Polish President Andrzej Druda visited the border on November 25. In a speech with references to the nation’s nationalist policies, he said: “We have always been, we are and we will be part of a Europe based on Christian values, which are also the foundations of our tradition and culture.” He went on to accuse the Belarusian government of taking “hybrid actions against Poland and the European Union.” 

Humanitarian groups have accused Poland’s ruling party, “Law and Order,” of violating the international right to asylum by pushing people back into Belarus rather than accepting their applications for protection. Under article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution in other countries. Poland has defended their actions, claiming that they are fully legal.

The situation has begun to turn into world leaders pointing fingers at one another while migrants starve in below freezing conditions with a lack of food, water, and basic necessities. Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, stated that the US is concerned about the ongoing situation at the border: “We are very concerned and closely paying attention to it,” Harris said at a press conference in Paris, “and the Lukashenko (Belarusian) regime, I believe, is engaged in very troubling activity.” While on the other hand, the Belarusian government has claimed that it has done “everything it can” to reduce the flow of migrants to the border.

 

Credit: “The Times” United Kingdom

 

Just recently, the Polish parliament blocked a bill that would give journalists unlimited media access at the border. On December 1st, the European Union allowed Poland and all countries bordering Belarus to suspend certain protections for asylum seekers at the border. Poland has been receiving aid and support from the E.U., even though many of their immigration measures have been in direct violation of certain E.U. statues. The E.U. said that the measures were temporary and were aimed at the current crisis at hand to allow Poland and bordering countries “flexibility” while managing asylum claims. Some of these measures give Polish authorities the right to detain migrants while applications are being processed. Poland has reportedly denied several applications, in violation of other E.U. statues, according to the Associated Press.

For many months, European Union officials have accused the autocratic leader of Belarus of orchestrating “hybrid warfare” by loosening Belarusian visa rules for migrants, most of them Iraqis, and later helping them reach the European Union’s eastern border. Migrants at the border told BBC News that Belarusian soldiers cut barbed-wire fencing so that they could cross into Poland.

The situation leaves many people wondering: who’s in the wrong? Is Belarus funneling migrants to Poland and other E.U. country’s borders in an attack against member nations? Is the way Poland responded to the crisis wrong, regardless of alleged Belarusian wrongdoing? Due to the secrecy of the Belarusian regime, and the lack of media access to the region, we may never know certain elements that may contribute to a greater understanding of the crisis at the Belarus-Poland border.

 

Additional questions to consider for more in-depth research: 

  • How are migrants getting to the Belarus-Poland border?
  • Who’s responsible for the military deployments and who has control over the Polish armed forces?
  • What are some of the economic impacts of the border crisis?
  • Why are people fleeing Russia for the European Union?