Poland accused Belarus on Sunday of continuing to ferry migrants to its border despite dismantling camps near the border earlier this week, as Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki toured Baltic neighbors in search of assistance in the issue.
Europe accuses Belarus of flying thousands of people from the Middle East into Europe, which has been at conflict with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko since a disputed election last year.
Minsk, which denies fomenting the issue, removed a migrant camp along the border on Thursday and began repatriating some people to Iraq, signaling a shift in strategy in the conflict, which has escalated into a major East-West war.
Despite this, Poland claims that Minsk continues to transport hundreds of migrants to the border, where about ten migrants are reported to have died as winter approaches.
“On Saturday, a party of approximately 100 very belligerent foreigners, escorted to the border by Belarusian military, attempted to force their way into Poland. The crossing was denied by (Polish) services “On Sunday, the border guard took to Twitter to express his displeasure.
There had been 208 attempts by migrants to force their way into Poland from Belarus on Saturday, the border guard said, a few more than on Friday but well below the 501 attempts recorded on Wednesday.
Neighboring Lithuania said 44 migrants were prevented from entering on Saturday, the lowest number in a week.
A dozen migrants from Iraq, speaking with Lithuanian news portal DELFI over the border with Belarus on Saturday, said they were forcibly brought there in military trucks by Belarus officials, who ignored their wish to go back to Iraq.
“A PRELUDE TO SOMETHING WORSE”
Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki visited Estonia and Lithuania on Sunday to discuss the crisis with his counterparts from the Baltic states. He will travel to Latvia later in the day.
“Today, on Poland’s Eastern border, we are dealing with a new type of war, a war in which migrants are weapons, in which disinformation is a weapon, a hybrid war,” Morawiecki said in Estonian capital Tallinn, adding further economic sanctions against Minsk were being discussed.
Morawiecki said in Lithuania that he was receiving information that the difficult situation in Afghanistan after the Taliban took over the country in August “may by used as the next stage of the migration crisis”.
“I think that the things that unfold before our eyes, these dramatic events, may only be a prelude to something much worse,” he added.
Poland and Lithuania called for continued support from the European Union and NATO.
“For us, it is very important that any talks (with Belarus) are coordinated with Lithuania, Poland and Latvia, which are at the forefront of the hybrid attack, and no decisions are taken which do not solve the situation fundamentally”, Lithuanian PM Ingrida Simonyte told reporters.
France’s foreign minister said on Sunday that Russia had to exert pressure on its ally, Belarus, to end the migrant crisis.
A poll by SW Research published by Rzeczpospolita daily on Sunday showed 55.1% of Poles are worried the crisis on the border could escalate into a regular armed conflict.
However, hundreds took part in protests in Warsaw and close to the Belarusian border on Saturday to demand help for the migrants.