Poland warns potential migrants Belarus border is closed

FILE - In this Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021 file photo, migrants are seated, after crossing the border from Belarus into Poland in the village of Usnarz Gorny, Poland. Thousands of people who traveled to Belarus in recent weeks have been pushed across the border by Belarusian guards. The European Union condemned the Belarusian actions as a form of "hybrid war" against the bloc. (AP Photo/Mateusz Wodzinski, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The government of Poland is working to warn potential migrants that the country's border with Belarus is sealed and is not a passage into the European Union, a deputy foreign minister said Tuesday.

Poland's diplomats in Middle Eastern and African countries are talking to local media and posting messages on the most popular communication channels to stop people from trying to illegally enter the EU through Belarus, Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz said.

A number of migrants, mostly from Iraq, have recently died from exhaustion as they tried to get from Belarus to Poland across an area of forests and swamps. The Polish diplomats are also speaking with government officials in certain countries to raise their awareness and to urge them to warn and protect their citizens, Przydacz said.

“We want to help these people; hence, our diplomatic activity in these countries ... and our warnings that they may fall victim to deception,” he said.

EU members Poland and Lithuania have faced recent migration pressure from their borders with Belarus. They have accused the Belarusian government of offering free tourist visas and intentionally misinforming people they can find refuge in the EU by illegally crossing into the neighboring nations.

Alleging that Belarus is acting in retaliation for Western sanctions, the Polish and Lithuanian governments have insulated their borders with more guards, military troops and razor wire fences.

The executive director of Europe's border security agency Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, visited Poland's border with Belarus and was “impressed by the means deployed to secure the border,” Frontex said.

It said Leggeri thanked Poland for “cooperating with Frontex since the beginning of the crisis" for Poland's border with Belarus is also the bloc's eastern border.

Przydacz said this assessment showed that Poland's border guards were doing their job properly and no Frontex reinforcements were needed, as has been suggested by the EU's Executive Commission.

Humanitarian organizations and Poland's influential Roman Catholic Church have criticized the Polish government for turning back groups of migrants that include families with children.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in Belarus have voted to suspend an agreement with the EU obliging the ex-Soviet nation to take back migrants that crossed its territory and illegally got into the bloc.


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