More British troops deployed to guard Polish border amid Belarus migrant crisis

About 100 soldiers from Royal Engineers reportedly being sent to help reinforce frontier

David Hughes
Friday 19 November 2021 15:19
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New camp forms on Poland-Belarus border as up to 1,000 migrants gather in region

More British troops will be deployed to Poland's border with Belarus to help address the migrant crisis.

Thousands of migrants, mainly from the Middle East, have sought to cross into the European Union at the frontier between Poland and Belarus in recent weeks.

Belarus authorities cleared the main camps on Thursday where thousands of people had been huddling by the Polish border. Hundreds of Iraqis were also sent home on the first repatriation flight from Minsk in months.

But Poland accused Belarus on Friday of trucking hundreds of migrants back to the border and pushing them to attempt to cross illegally.

The UK and allies have accused Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko of engineering the crisis, with defence secretary Ben Wallace saying the migrants were being used as “pawns”.

Lukashenko has said it was “absolutely possible” his forces had helped migrants cross into Poland but denied they had been invited, the BBC reported late on Friday.

“I think that’s absolutely possible. We’re Slavs. We have hearts. Our troops know the migrants are going to Germany,” Lukashenko told the BBC in an interview. “Maybe someone helped them. I won’t even look into this.”

The Daily Telegraph reported that about 100 soldiers from the Royal Engineers will be sent to help physically reinforce the Polish border although details of the deployment are still being worked out.

Mr Wallace, who visited British troops training in Poland, told the newspaper: “Can you imagine going from Iraq, to here, onto a border, not much clothes, not much food, not much money, and then being a pawn in the Belarusian leader’s game? I think that’s heartless and I think it is cruel.”

Western governments have accused Mr Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin, of deliberately encouraging the migrants to breach its borders in retaliation for sanctions the EU has imposed in response to his repressive rule.

Mr Wallace said he believed Moscow would “see what this is about and recognise that, you know, Europe and Nato and the west is alert to what’s going on”.

Meanwhile, home secretary Priti Patel lashed out at the European Union, claiming the open borders within the bloc had led to France being “overwhelmed” with migrants seeking to reach the UK.

“Let’s not forget that the real problem on illegal migration flows is the EU has no border protections whatsoever – Schengen open borders,” she told reporters during a trip to the United States.

The Times reported that Ms Patel said she had secured agreement from the French government that it would allow drones and other aerial surveillance and number plate-recognition cameras to track the movements of migrants and people traffickers in northern France.

“I think it’s fair to say they [France] are overwhelmed. That is a fact,” she said.

PA

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