Polish forces securing border and cities on Independence Day amid tensions over migrants

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Security forces in Poland were tasked Thursday with securing the nation’s eastern border amid a migration fight with Belarus while also protecting the capital and other cities during Independence Day marches organized by far-right groups that turned violent in the past.

Poland has objected since the summer to the increasing number of refugees and migrants trying to enter the country from Belarus. The Poland-Belarus border is also part of the European Union’s eastern border, and the EU accuses the regime in Belarus of encouraging illegal migration to create instability in the West.

The political standoff took on a larger scope this week as a large group of asylum seekers, most of them from the Middle East, arrived at the border. Some tried to force their way across, and hundreds, possibly thousands, remain in makeshift camps in freezing temperatures, deepening humanitarian concerns.

Bartosz Grodecki, a deputy interior minister, said in an interview with the Polsat broadcaster on Thursday morning that there were more attempted crossings overnight, including one involving a group of 150 migrants.

Grodecki said Polish authorities think there could be another forceful attempt to enter the country on Thursday night. A large number of the police officers assigned to guard the Independence March in Warsaw will be deployed to the border directly afterward, he said.

Seen as retaliation by Lukashenko

The West has accused Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko of encouraging migrants from the Middle East to travel to his country and sending them toward EU members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia as a way to retaliate against the bloc for the sanctions. The sanctions were imposed on the authoritarian regime for Lukashenko’s crackdown on internal dissent since his disputed re-election in 2020.

Migrants gather near a fire on the Belarusian-Polish border in the Grodno region, Belarus November 10, 2021. (Ramil Nasibulin/BelTA/Reuters)

The EU is now looking at the role some airlines have played in transporting migrants and refugees to the bloc’s doorstep. The Polish government has pointed the finger at what it believes is a Turkish role — something Ankara denies.

Turkey denies ‘baseless allegations’

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu discussed the crisis on the Belarus-Polish border in a late-night telephone call with his Polish counterpart on Wednesday. He rejected “baseless allegations” that Turkey and its national carrier, Turkish Airlines, were flying migrants to Belarus, Turkish officials said.

“Minister Cavusoglu expressed regret at attempts to show Turkey as being part of the problem despite the fact that it is not a party to the problem, and at the baseless allegations against Turkey and Turkish Airlines,” according to a statement from Cavusoglu’s office.

Cavusoglu also told Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau that the Polish public should be “properly informed” about allegations being made against Turkey and suggested that a Polish technical team visit Turkey.

Meanwhile, there are reports that Iraq will help return its citizens stuck in Belarus.

Iraqi Deputy Migration Minister Karim al-Nuri told Sputnik, a Russian state news agency, that Iraq will facilitate the return of its citizens from Belarus if they wish via the embassy in Russia.

“We will transport those who want to return. We will facilitate this through the Iraqi embassy in Russia, since Iraq does not have an embassy in Belarus,” the official said.



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