Migrants seek to enter Poland; Belarus prevents their return

Members of a group of about 30 asylum seekers fend off a massive migrant push behind a border wall built by Poland on its border with Belarus in Białowieża, Poland, Sunday, May 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Agnieszka Sadowska)

WARSAW (AP) — About 30 asylum seekers, including young children, have been trapped on the Poland-Belarus border for three days, Polish human rights activists said Sunday.

Although the migrants were outside the Polish border wall, border group activists pointed out that they were on Polish territory and Belarus would not allow them to return.

“They are not safe in Belarus,” said activist Marta Staniszewska.

“As this group told us, the Belarusian services threatened them that if they returned, they would be beaten or killed,” Staniszewska told The Associated Press.

Many of them are sick, one woman has a toothache and migrants say the boys have been bitten by mosquitoes, according to Staniszewska.

A representative of Poland’s human rights watchdog visited the group on Sunday, but later told reporters that the decision on whether they are allowed to enter the country rests with Polish border guards.

“If these people are really under the jurisdiction of the border guard and declare their intention to apply for international protection, those applications should be accepted,” said Maciej Grzeskowiak.

Poland installed a nearly 190-kilometer (117-mile) high metal wall last year to prevent hundreds of thousands of migrants from Asia and Africa from entering the country from Belarus.

The European Union has accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of facilitating illegal border crossings in retaliation for EU-imposed sanctions. Lukashenko denies encouraging migration to Europe.

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Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Poland’s most influential politician and leader of the ruling party, recently said building a border wall was a good decision. He noted that he protected Poland and the European Union from hostile actions by Belarus and Russia.

According to the border guard, despite the wall, 150 migrants of various nationalities, mostly with Russian visas in their documents, try to cross into Poland illegally every day.

Esmond Harmon

"Entrepreneur. Social media advocate. Amateur travel guru. Freelance introvert. Thinker."

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