A group of migrants stuck at the Belarusian-Polish border trying to cross the border barrier has been repelled by guards using tear gas, the Polish Border Guard said. Up to 15,000 migrants and refugees could be stranded in the border region between the two countries.
A group of migrants stuck on the Polish-Belarusian frontier for weeks tried to break through the border barrier, according to the Polish Border Guard.
Near the village of Usnarz Gorny, six people threw wooden logs onto the barbed wire fence in an effort to topple it, the agency said in a tweet on Wednesday (October 20) that included a video of the incident. The migrants also threw stones at border guards and soldiers, the tweet added. Some were equipped with axes and pliers, it said.
Border guards used tear gas to stop the migrants, which can be seen in the last 15 seconds of the video. Nevertheless, 16 of them eventually forced their way into Polish territory but were pushed back to the other side of the border, according to the agency.
It is important to note that the information provided by the Polish Border Guard cannot be independently verified because Poland has imposed a state of emergency in the border region. Journalists and aid workers are not allowed in.
Over the past few months, thousands of mainly Middle Eastern migrants have been trying to reach the European Union via Belarus. They chose paths to EU member states Lithuania, Latvia and Poland. According to news agency dpa, around 15,000 migrants have gathered at the Polish-Belarusian border since then. The Lithuanian government on Wednesday spoke of a total of 6,000 to 7,000 who could be waiting at the EU external border with Belarus.
The governments of Poland and other EU countries as well as EU institutions have repeatedly accused Belarusian ruler Lukashenko of allowing people from countries like Iraq and Lebanon to travel toward the bloc's external borders via Belarus to put pressure on the EU and sow division. On Wednesday, Germany's interior minister, Horst Seehofer, accused Belarus of organizing human trafficking, calling it a form of "hybrid threat by weaponizing migrants."
Underlying the recent spike in irregular migrant arrivals to the EU via Belarus is a complicated geopolitical conflict. In May, Lukashenko's security forces diverted a Ryanair plane with a Belarusian activist on board flying from Greece to Lithuania. As a result, the EU imposed sanctions on Belarus.
In return, Lukashenko indicated that Belarus could retaliate by loosening border controls for irregular, western-bound migrants as well as drug trafficking.
On Wednesday, the body of a Syrian was found in a river in the border region between Poland and Belarus. It was the eighth recorded migrant death since the beginning of the surge in arrivals. Amnesty International, the Council of Europe and others have repeatedly criticized member Poland for its treatment of migrants at the border with Belarus.