Migrants at the Polish border used logs, spades and other tools to try and break down the fence preventing them from entering the country.
The conflict, which took place on Nov. 8, has prompted calls for tighter border security in Minsk.
At a news conference in Warsaw, Polish President Andrzej Duda said:
“The Belarusian regime is attacking the Polish border, the EU, in an unparalleled manner. We currently have a camp of migrants who are blocked from the Belarusian side. There are about 1,000 people there, mostly young men. These are aggressive actions that we must repel, fulfilling our obligations as a member of the European Union.”
Poland contends the Middle Eastern, Afghan and African migrants were encouraged to cross the border by the Belarusian government as payback after the European union sanctioned the nation because of human rights abuses. Other EU countries support this claim.
Following the Belarusian government’s treatment of those protesting allegedly rigged elections in August of 2020, 166 individuals and 15 entities from Belarus received EU sanctions.
“Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s government, which is backed by Russia, denies manufacturing the migrant crisis and blames Europe and the United States for the plight of the people stranded at the border,” per Reuters.
The Polish Border Guard reported 309 attempts to cross on Monday. At least 17 people were detained. In October, the agency recorded 15,000 attempted crossings.
According to reports, “6,000 migrants, mostly from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, tried to enter the bloc via the Belarus-EU border, a sharp rise from last year’s 150.”
Thousands of additional soldiers, police and border guards deployed to the border, where Polish officials have claimed that Belarusian security personnel have fired “empty shots into the air, simulating dangerous events” to incite instability.
The Irish Times reported on Oct. 31 that “at least eight people have died as thousands of migrants, mostly from Iraq, Iran and Syria, have tried to cross from Belarus in recent weeks but found themselves trapped in a densely wooded border zone with no food or shelter from sub-zero temperatures.”
In response to the growing crisis, the Council of the EU announced on Nov. 9 that visa facilitation arrangements for Belarusian government officials were suspended.
Belarusian officials will not be able to apply for EU visas using a simplified process. Ordinary citizens are exempt from this sanction.
“The Council today adopted a decision partially suspending the application of the EU-Belarus visa facilitation agreement,” the Council said in a press statement.
In addition to Poland, Lithuania and Latvia have also reported an increase in illegal border crossings since August.