Poland: Belarus eyes using Afghan migrants as border pawns

Poland's prime minister has warned that migrant pressures on the European Union's border with Belarus could continue, this time with people fleeing from Afghanistan and Uzbekistan

Via AP news wire
Sunday 21 November 2021 14:14

Poland’s leader on Sunday warned against more possible migrant pressures on the European Union’s border with Belarus this time coming from Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki spoke in Vilnius following talks with Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte about ways of solving the “very difficult situation” at the borders of EU members with Belarus. He was on a one-day tour of meetings with the prime ministers of EU members Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which have also been hit by the migrant pressures.

The EU says the new surge of migrants on its eastern borders has been orchestrated by the leader of Belarus, President Alexander Lukashenko in retaliation for EU sanctions placed on Belarus after a government crackdown on peaceful democracy protesters. It calls the move "a hybrid attack'' on the bloc. Belarus denies the charge.

Morawiecki said he expected the migrant pressures on Poland and the EU to continue, but now from a different region, claiming knowledge of “diplomatic” contacts that Belarus and Russia had with Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.

“There is a threat of an even more difficult scenario," Morawiecki said. “There will most probably be an attempt at using the crisis in Afghanistan as a new act in the migration crisis, putting to use the West's remorse related to the disorderly pullout from Afghanistan."

Earlier in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, Morawiecki said Poland was ready to contribute financially to the return flights to their home countries for migrants who have been stranded at the border's damp forest for weeks. He said Warsaw was also ready to close all border crossings with Belarus to step up the economic pressure on Lukashenko's regime. The Polish crossing near Kuznica was closed last week.

Simonyte stressed that the EU should coordinate all further actions on Belarus with countries at the forefront of these attacks — Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

“The European Commission has now taken over the technical talks with Minsk. It is very important that no decisions are taken that will not allow the situation to be resolved," Simonyte told reporters, warning against the perception of any separate Poland-Belarus discussions.

Poland is pushing the migrants back, saying it is protecting the border for all of Europe and NATO. It has received words of support from the EU, NATO and the U.S.

A few migrants have died in the forests straddling the border. Others have abandoned hopes of reaching Europe and were flown back to their home countries last week.

The EU Commission leveled further accusations against Lukashenko despite the apparent easing of tensions on the border with Poland.

“In the crisis, Lukashenko behaved like an unlicensed tour operator who sold expensive travel packages to the EU, only for them to collapse on arrival,” EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

“Families and children were deceived and lured into a tragedy that meant a lot of suffering,” Johansson said, adding that Lukashenko and his regime would bear a “high degree of responsibility for the crisis.”

___

Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin, Jari Tanner in Tallinn and Monika Scislowska in Warsaw contributed.

___

Follow all AP stories on global migration at https://apnews.com/hub/migration.