The migratory pressure from Belarus on the EU’s eastern borders is great. The borders are being increasingly secured, but the humanitarian situation of the migrants is worsening.
- Poland, Latvia * and Lithuania rely on increased border security.
- Groups of people with an uncertain status are waiting on the EU’s eastern border.
- Lithuania * is trying to persuade the migrants to return, and Poland * is sending trucks to Belarus with humanitarian aid.
The Prime Minister of Poland and the Prime Ministers of the three Baltic States Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania held a video conference on August 21 to discuss the tense situation on their borders with Belarus. A joint statement was published on Monday that unanimously blames Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for the crisis at the state borders.
“We, the Prime Ministers of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland, are concerned about the situation in Lithuania, Latvia and Poland on the border with Belarus. It is clear that the current crisis was planned and systematically organized by the Lukashenko regime. The instrumentalization of immigrants to destabilize neighboring countries is a clear violation of international law and is to be classified as a hybrid attack against Lithuania, Latvia and Poland and thus against the entire European Union ”, the joint statement said.
Migration from Belarus: Latvia declares a state of emergency, Poland wants to follow suit
Already months ago there were signals that there are significantly more migrants on the border with Lithuania who are trying to cross the borders into the European Union. After a few weeks, the numbers also increased on the Polish-Belarusian border. There were more illegal border crossings where the border was unsecured. In Lithuania, this was the case at several border sections, so that within a few weeks several thousand migrants have crossed the EU’s eastern border in this way.
Only after Lithuania decided to return the people to the Belarusian border guards and to secure the border with barbed wire did the migratory pressure at these points decrease and increasingly shift towards Poland and Latvia. As a result, on August 11, Latvia declared a state of emergency for those regions where the state border with Belarus runs.
Poland wants to follow this example and also declare a state of emergency in individual regions in the immediate vicinity of the border. The Polish Sejm will discuss the declaration of this state of emergency on Monday, September 6th.
Border security comes first – people camp under difficult conditions
The Belarusian border guards prevent the rejected migrants from returning to Belarusian territory, so that people camp in small groups under difficult conditions on the respective border lines of the EU’s eastern borders.
The states directly bordering Belarus are already strengthening their border infrastructure. In the medium term, however, the borders will be secured with high fences. The Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite announced on August 20 that Lithuania would build a 500-kilometer fence along the eastern border by September next year. The height of the device will be four meters and cost around 152 million euros.
Latvia is also planning to expand the border fortifications. The length of the border with Belarus here is 172 kilometers. Of this, 37 kilometers are to be additionally secured with a fence. There will also be a new fence along the borders between Poland and Belarus. “The fence will be 2.5 meters high,” said Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak.
Human rights activists criticize Poland, Latvia and Lithuania for border policy
In extreme humanitarian cases, Lithuania, Poland and Latvia take in the migrants. One such case involved a group of people, including children, who ended up in the moorland and were in mortal danger.
The behavior of the governments of the two Baltic states and Poland, which refuse to accept asylum applications from migrants, is controversial in terms of human rights and criticized by opposition politicians. In the meantime, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Poland and Latvia do not have to allow Iraqi and Afghan migrants to enter. Instead, they were required to provide these people with food, water, clothing, medical assistance and temporary sleeping facilities.
In the vicinity of Usnarz Górny, a group of 50-70 migrants, mainly from Iraq, were initially waiting for an opportunity to come to Poland. There are now 24 people there, announced the Polish border guard.
Migrants from Belarus: The situation is stabilizing a little
According to the Lithuanian Interior Minister Bilotaite, the situation is also stabilizing in Lithuania after the country has been sending people back to Belarus who want to cross the border for around three weeks. Since then, 1,500 of these border crossings have been foiled. In addition, Lithuania is trying to persuade migrants to return to their home countries with return flight tickets and a sum of money of 300 euros. The offers are occasionally accepted, as the Interior Minister emphasized.
The head of the Latvian State Border Guard, Guntis Pujāts, also told the Latvian media that the situation has calmed down. As in Poland, there are people waiting in the immediate vicinity of the Latvian and Lithuanian border guard, who are prevented from returning to Belarusian territory by the Belarusian border guards.
The Polish Foreign Ministry has decided to provide humanitarian aid to migrants on Belarusian territory. On August 23, trucks left Warsaw for Belarus loaded with tents, blankets, camp beds, etc. They asked permission from the Belarusian leadership to enter the country. They were refused permission. Further attempts are now being made to help the people in this way, which Belarus has refused to accept. Aleksandra Fedorska * Merkur.de is an offer from IPPEN.MEDIA.