The number of people trying to cross the border irregularly between Belarus and Poland is rising again. Polish officials say they are taking a new route from the Middle East through Russia to reach the EU.
With the arrival of spring in Europe, the number of people risking irregular crossings into the EU is on the rise, Polish authorities say.
According to the most recent reports from the Polish border guard, 103 people tried to enter the country from neighboring Belarus on Monday. Among them were Jordanians, Moroccans and Senegalese nationals.
In the past few weeks, according to authorities, between 40 and 120 people per day have tried to enter from Belarus. A spokesperson from the border guard told the news agency dpa that numbers were increasing steadily as a result of milder weather conditions.
The latest migrants trying to enter Poland have not traveled directly from their countries to Belarus, according to the border guard, but are taking a new route via Dubai and Russia.
Late last year Syria, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq took various measures to prevent migrants from flying direct to Belarus with the aim of entering the EU. The moves led to a drop in the number of people gathered along the Polish border, a trend Polish authorities say may be reversed.
"We expect the number of attempted crossings could rise to 200 per day in the coming weeks," the border guard spokesperson said.
Refugees (from Ukraine) welcome
Poland continues to take in refugees from Ukraine, with 2.9 million arriving so far, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said Tuesday. The agency now expects another 3 million people to flee Ukraine this year. Over 5,317,000 refugees have left the country since February 24.
While people coming from Ukraine are welcomed at the Polish border, the Warsaw government has declared that the eastern border with Belarus will remain a restricted zone until the end of June.
Aid workers and journalists who are not granted a permit will continue to be denied access to a three kilometer-wide zone on the Polish side. Work will also continue on a fortified wall along 186 kilometers of the Polish-Belarusian border at an estimated cost of about €276 million.
Migrants still stranded
Last year thousands of people tried to enter European Union counties Lithuania, Latvia and Poland from neighboring Belarus. The situation at the borders became critical during the winter months, with hundreds of people stranded for weeks in freezing conditions.
Grupa Granica, a network of non-government organizations monitoring the Polish border, said this week that it had received a large number of calls for help since December, but it was impossible for them to gain access to the migrants in need.
On Twitter it reports that a group of 13 people with sick children, including a girl who has run out of medication and a pregnant woman, was stranded at the border and begging for help. They had been 'transported' 25 times by the Polish Border Guard, Grupa Granica said.
Rights groups continue to accuse Polish authorities of carrying out illegal pushbacks and criticize border guards on both sides over their treatment of migrants. 19 people are known to have died at the border since the start of the crisis.