Another migrant has reportedly died at the Polish-Belarusian border. Poland's border guard said the victim was a member of a group of migrants from Iraq who were detained Thursday night near the border. Meanwhile, more and more migrants arrive irregularly in Germany, too.
According to the Polish border guard, the group of Iraqi migrants was detained on Thursday (September 23) on Polish territory some 500 meters away from the border with Belarus.
One of the detainees, the border guard said on Twitter, had to be reanimated but died nonetheless, presumably due to a heart attack. The force added that another member of the group, who tested positive for COVID-19, is in hospital.
Four days earlier, on September 19, the escalation at the Polish-Belarusian border had claimed its first casualties when the bodies of four people were found near the border -- three on the Polish side and one on the Belarusian side. The three men and one woman are also believed to be Iraqi nationals.
As a result, UN agencies IOM and UNHCR last week expressed their "shock and dismay" over the deaths and called for "immediate access" to the Polish and Lithuanian borders with Belarus.
From Iraq to the EU via Belarus
Over the past few months, thousands of mainly Middle Eastern migrants have been trying to reach European Union member states via Belarus. They chose paths to Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.
Poland and Lithuania have repeatedly accused the Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of attempting to destabilize the EU by encouraging migrants in his country towards the border. His actions came as a response to the EU's imposition of sanctions on his country after his security forces diverted a Ryanair plane flying from Greece to Lithuania in May. The plane had a Belarusian activist and his girlfriend on board, both of whom are now in prison in Belarus.
Both Poland and Lithuania are currently building razor wire fences and increasing border patrols. Along with Latvia, moreover, they declared a state of emergency along the border areas in an effort to reduce the number of irregular crossings. Poland also sent an additional 500 troops and special vehicles to its 400-kilometer long border with Belarus.
NGOs and international bodies have criticized Poland over their treatment of migrant in the border region. In early September, two Afghan refugee children in Poland died after eating poisonous mushrooms.
On Friday (September 24), Polish conservative Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Facebook that his government would help all migrants who have crossed into Poland. "We are trying to help and save the lives and health of all illegal migrants who crossed the border with Poland and were found in time," the head of government said. "We want everyone to be treated well."
Uptick in irregular arrivals to Germany
Migrants who have made it to Poland from Belarus have recently also begun crossing into Germany, where the number of irregular arrivals is on the rise. Germany's federal police are apparently taking steps to accommodate the arrivals, whose number they expect to increase further.
German publication Bild reported on Friday that Iraqi migrants pay smugglers several thousand euros to help them fly to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, from where they take taxis or travel by foot to EU countries. According to Bild, some migrants warned of the dangerous route from Belarus to the EU.
Bild also reported on Friday that a initial reception facility in the German border town of Eisenhüttenstadt was at capacity.