Belarus uses Afghan migrants as border farmers

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) – Poland’s leader warned on Sunday against more possible migrant pressure on the EU’s border with Belarus, this time from Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki spoke in Vilnius after talks with Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte on ways to resolve the “very difficult situation” at EU members’ borders with Belarus. He was on a one-day tour in meetings with the prime ministers of EU member states Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, who have also been hit by migrant pressure.

The EU says the new wave of migrants at its eastern borders has been orchestrated by Belarus’s leader, President Alexander Lukashenko, in retaliation for EU sanctions imposed on Belarus following a government crackdown on peaceful democracy protesters. It calls the move “a hybrid attack” on the block. Belarus denies the allegations.

Morawiecki said he expected migrant pressure on Poland and the EU to continue, but now from a different region, citing knowledge of “diplomatic” contacts that Belarus and Russia had with Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.

“There is a threat of an even more difficult scenario,” Morawiecki said. “There will most likely be an attempt to use the crisis in Afghanistan as a new act in the migration crisis, by using the West’s remorse in connection with the disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan.”

Earlier in Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, Morawiecki said Poland was ready to contribute financially to the return flights to their home countries for migrants who have been stranded at the border’s damp forest for weeks. He said Warsaw was also ready to close all border crossings with Belarus in order to increase economic pressure on Lukashenko’s regime. The Polish crossing near Kuznica was closed last week.

Simonyte stressed that the EU should coordinate all further action against Belarus with countries leading these attacks – Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

‘The European Commission has now taken over the technical talks with Minsk. It is very important that no decisions are made that will not allow the situation to be resolved, “Simonyte told reporters, warning against the perception of any separate discussions between Poland and Belarus.

Poland is pushing migrants back, saying it is protecting the border for the whole of Europe and NATO. It has received words of support from the EU, NATO and the United States

A few migrants have died in the forests on the border. Others have given up hope of reaching Europe and were flown back to their home countries last week.

The European Commission made further allegations against Lukashenko despite the apparent easing of tensions at the Polish border.

“During the crisis, Lukashenko behaved like an unauthorized tour operator, selling expensive travel packages to the EU, only to collapse on arrival,” EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

“Families and children were deceived and lured into a tragedy that meant a lot of suffering,” Johansson said, adding that Lukashenko and his regime would bear a “high degree of responsibility for the crisis.”

___

Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin, Jari Tanner in Tallinn and Monika Scislowska in Warsaw contributed.

___

Follow all AP stories about global migration at https://apnews.com/hub/migration.

Leave a Comment