The Polish Border Guard says migrants crossing from Belarus are making the most of the fact that electronic surveillance equipment is yet to be installed at the border. A spokesperson accused Belarus of being behind a growing number of attempted crossings.
With the border wall between Poland and Belarus officially completed, but still not fitted out with cameras and sensors, more migrants are attempting to cross over into the European Union before it becomes harder to do so, according to the Polish Border Guard spokesperson Anna Michalska.
Poland began building a wall on the Belarus border after large numbers of migrants, mostly from the Middle East and Africa, tried to enter from Belarus in 2021, resulting in a humanitarian crisis.
According to Polish human rights activists, the wall has not stopped the flow of migrants, but has led to worse problems. They have reported a growing number of migrants with serious injuries sustained while trying to climb over the barrier, which is 5.5 meters high and 186 kilometers long.
As the activists brace themselves for winter and what they anticipate will be still greater misery and danger for migrants at the border, the Polish authorities are in the process of installing cameras and sensors on the wall. In a Reuters report on Tuesday (November 8), Michalska says this electronic system will make border crossings more difficult, a fact she believes is being exploited by the Belarus regime.
"The Belarusian services and people connected to the regime of Lukashenko (Belarus’ leader) know this, and they want to recruit the biggest group of foreigners possible to make this journey," she said.
In 2021 a humanitarian crisis began after large numbers of people from the Middle East and Africa tried to enter the European Union via Belarus, but were stopped at the Polish and Lithuanian borders, remaining stranded in the forest or forced back to Belarus. Poland and the EU said Belarus engineered the crisis in retaliation against EU sanctions.
More than 100 a day
This week, Reuters reports that Polish officials said increased activity had once again been observed on the Belarus border and warned that "a new migrant crisis could erupt on (Poland’s) borders."
While such warnings from Polish border authorities are common, Grupa Granica, an alliance of Polish civil society groups helping migrants at the Poland-Belarus border, has also noted an increase in crossing attempts in recent weeks. Anna Alboth from the organization said more than 1,800 calls had been received from migrants on the Polish side since the wall was completed.
According to the Border Guard, the number of people trying to cross from Belarus now often exceeds 100 a day. This is significantly more than the numbers seen during the northern summer months, it said.
On Tuesday (November 8) a group of ten people had to be rescued when they became stuck in a swampy area around the Siemianowka Lagoon, about 60 kilometers southeast of Bialystok.
Eight of the migrants were Sri Lankan citizens, while the other two were from Pakistan and India, the Border Guard said, noting on Twitter that "they were very exhausted and had no way of safe return."