Poland has announced that they will send 900 troops to the Belarus border to secure it and say they might send more if needed. Poland claims that there has been a surge of illegal attempts to cross the border. According to the Polish Interior Ministry, 2,100 people have attempted to cross the border illegally. The government says they have adopted a law that will enable them to deport illegal immigrants faster. Reuters reports that both Poland and Lithuania have seen an increase of Afghan and Iraqi migrants entering from the Belarus borders. There are also reports that around 50 immigrants have made camp between the Polish and Belarusian border.
27 EU interior ministers have in a statement accused Belarus of “[instrumentalizing] human beings for political purposes”. According to the EU Belarus has helped immigrants fly to Minsk then driven them to the border. The EU and Belarus have been in a conflict since the 2020 election and the relationship worsened when the Belarusian government intercepted a Ryanair plane in order to detain an opposition journalist. The EU, together with other organizations and states, has imposed sanctions on Belarus. The Belarusian president Lukashenko in response to the sanctions has said that he will not “hold back immigrants”. The use of immigrants and refugees is a troubling and emerging trend. Turkey and Morocco have been accused of using immigrants as a tool to threaten the EU. Earlier this year Morocco let 6,000-8,000 migrants pass the border to Spain due to Spain allowing Brahim Ghali to be treated at a Spanish hospital. Now Belarus is accused of using immigrants to attack the EU. Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins has called the actions of Belarus “hybrid warfare against the EU”. With the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, many are expecting a surge of immigration to Europe, and the concept of ‘fortress Europe’ is once again being discussed. Lithuania’s Interior Minister Agnė Bilotaitė said they expect to spend more than 500 million euros on border fences and a monitoring system. However, not everyone in Lithuania is positive toward erecting a 550-kilometer fence. Remigijus Žemaitaitis, a Lithuanian parliamentarian, told Euro News “Let’s not fool ourselves that the fence inflicting deadly wounds to forest animals will be a guarantor of Lithuania’s security. The fence is clearly devoted to Lukashenko.”
An immigrant trying to cross the border from Belarus to Latvia told Reuters that the border guards had shouted to them to turn back and used dogs to scare them away. Twelve Belarus soldiers have been accused of violating the border and pushing migrants into Lithuania. Lithuania has also released a video of Belarusian border troops dressed in riot gear. Belarus has in turn accused Lithuanian border guards of being violent against immigrants and released their own video. According to BBC, Lithuanian border guards can be seen physically trying to push immigrants away from the border. In the middle of this conflict are people who are being pushed back and forth, used for political means, who are often vulnerable without a safe place to go. Lithuania claims it has the right to use force to stop illegal immigration. However, Eglė Samuchovaitė from Lithuania’s Red Cross has pointed out that these “push-backs” are not compatible with the Geneva convention’s refuge statute. The UN has said that they are deeply concerned about these kinds of “push-back[s]” of immigrants. Pushing immigrants and refugees back and forth between soldiers on a border might sound like a scene from parody, yet this is where European immigration is at the moment. The calls for a new, safe, and humane immigration policy in the EU are increasing but fences, barbwires, soldiers, and dogs are unlikely to be the solution. At the very least, countries should uphold international law and immigrants’ right to seek asylum without threats and violence.
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