While the number of migrant attempts to cross the Polish-Belarus border has dropped significantly, the situation of migrants stranded at the border or held in detention camps remains grave.
Polish border authorities say they have stopped migrants from crossing the Belarusian border into their territory 600 times already since the year began.
While in October, at the peak of the migrant standoff between Poland and Belarus, thousands of crossing attempts were recorded by the Polish border guard every day, the number has plummeted to dozens a day in January, according to the Associated Press (AP) news agency.
The German online statistics portal Statista published a graph for autumn 2021, in which it showed that about 17,300 attempts to cross the border from Belarus into Poland were made in October, and about 8,900 in November.
Most recently on Tuesday, January 18, the Polish border guard posted a video on their Twitter account, stating that they detained about 32 migrants who had entered Poland by allegedly cutting through the razor-wire barriers at the border.
State of emergency
Since migrants began crossing from Belarus into various EU countries in the summer, Poland has employed a set of measures to deter migrants from its borders. The country declared a state of emergency and banned journalists, NGOs and rights groups from going within several kilometers of the border. Some of the nation’s actions and policies have been widely criticized by rights groups and EU officials.
Besides ramping up border patrols and, on multiple occasions, violently fending off migrants at its border, Polish authorities are planning to build a wall equipped with motion sensors and a monitoring system on its border with Belarus, by next summer. More agreements regarding the structure were signed off in early January. Most of the border is already covered with thick barbed wire and thousands of troops and border guards.
According to Frontex, the EU's border agency, almost 8,000 migrants officially crossed from Belarus into the EU in 2021.
Poland transfers some of the migrants who do arrive to detention camps which are closed to journalists and civil activists. Some of these camps, according to a platform related to the EU commission on refugees and exiles (ECRE), have prison-like features: thick walls, bars at the windows, and along the corridors. All centers are surrounded by high walls topped with barbed wire. Speaking to Infomigrants in December, a Polish MP, who was given an exclusive chance to visit a camp in Wedrzy, compared it to Guantanamo prison.
The situation in closed camps was recently criticized by German parliamentarians. After her visit to the Polish-Belarusian border area, Andrea Johlige, from the left-wing Die Linke party, urged the German Federal state to stop deporting people to Poland. "Almost without exception, refugees in Poland are being held in camps without adequate medical care or contact with the outside world," said Johlige to the parliament on January 18, according to the German press agency dpa.
Germany has the right to send asylum seekers to Poland, based on the Dublin agreement, which dictates that asylum applications should be processed in the first EU country of arrival.
Johlige’s remarks were supported by Petra Budke from the Green party who said that Germany should put pressure on the Polish government to allow humanitarian aid to be delivered to migrants stranded at its borders with Belarus, dpa reports.
Currently, hundreds of migrants are stuck on the Belarus side of the border, in a kind of 'no-man's land' between the Polish wire and Belarusian troops. Most of whom live in makeshift camps despite freezing winter temperatures. Last week, international humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders said that its teams assigned to Poland’s border with Belarus have left the country after repeatedly being denied access to the migrants and refugees they initially went to help.
With dpa, AP