Belarus: Migrants mass at Kuznica-Bruzgi border with Poland
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Belarusian dictator, Alexander Lukashenko is thought to have sent more than a thousand refugees to the Polish border, after images showed a long line of migrants being led towards the border by what appeared to be Belarussian forces. This comes after the EU, the US and Britain imposed sanctions on Belarus, following a violent political crackdown last year.
Lukashenko has since been accused of using the refugees as pawns in his battle with the nations.
Calling the wave of refugees “an invasion”, the Polish government has said it is “determined” to “defend” Europe.
The Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said: “The Polish government is determined and we will defend the security of our country and the entire EU, respecting our international obligations and bearing in mind, above all, the interests of the state and the safety of Polish soldiers, Border Guard officers and citizens.”
The Polish government sent 12,000 troops to reinforce the 10,000 already stationed at the border.
Polish soldiers were seen pepper-spraying the refugees from behind a barbed-wire barrier as they tried to hack it down with branches and spades.
Small children were also seen being held up by desperate parents who pleaded with the Polish forces to let them through.
Writing on Twitter, Spokesperson of the Minister-Special Services Coordinator Stanislaw Zaryn said: “Very disturbing information from the border. A large group of migrants has gathered in Belarus, near the border with Poland.
“They have just moved towards the border of the Republic of Poland. They will try to enter Poland en masse.
“The group of #migrants gathered in a large crowd by the Belarusians is comprised of mostly young men. The biggest attempt to date to enter #Poland by force has just begun.
“Acc. to the latest information, this massive group of migrants is under a strict control of Belarusian armed units who decide which way the group can or can’t go. It’s yet another example of the regime’s hostile activity targeted against Poland.”
However, Amnesty International has claimed that Poland’s removal of refugees has so far been illegal.
A digital investigation carried out by the human rights charity found that the country has breached migrants’ rights.
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Eve Geddie, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office, said: “Poland has been cruelly holding this group of people on their border in horrendous conditions for weeks.
“Our analysis shows irrefutably on August 18, their position shifted from Poland to Belarus overnight, which strongly suggests that they were victims of an unlawful pushback.”
In a statement, the charity said: “Under EU and international refugee law, Poland is obliged to ensure an individual assessment of all asylum claims and refrain from unlawful returns, including pushbacks and collective expulsions.
“Amnesty International calls on Poland’s government to ensure access to the territory to those seeking protection, end pushbacks, and urgently provide adequate shelter, food, water and medical care to the group of Afghans stranded at the Poland Belarus border.”
But Deputy head of Poland’s Interior Ministry Błażej Poboży said: “At the moment, a regular battle is taking place near Kuźnice.
“The Border Guard, the Police and the Polish Army are defending our border against the attack of migrants inspired and prepared by Lukashenko.”
Meanwhile, Stanislaw Zaryn, Poland’s Secret Service minister, said there were “between 3,000 and 4,000 people in the vicinity of the Polish border”, adding that the country will “strengthen forces”.
In response to the influx, NATO that “the use of migrants by the regime of Lukashenko as a hybrid tactic is unacceptable.”
They also expressed “concern” about the “escalation” in the dispute between Belarus and Poland.
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.
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