Poland: 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, the capital of Lithuania, 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.

All leaders stressed the need to act together and said that the border crisis created by Belarus has strengthened their cooperation.

The EU says the new wave of migrants at its eastern borders has been orchestrated as Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime in retaliation for EU sanctions imposed on Belarus following its repression of peaceful democracy protesters. It calls the move “a hybrid attack” on the entire bloc of 27 nations. Belarus denies the allegations.

Poland’s border guard said on Sunday it had prevented a violent illegal entry of about 100 “very aggressive foreigners” on Saturday, who had been brought to the fenced border near the village of Czeremcha by Belarusian forces.

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 Western remorse in connection with the disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan.”

In the Latvian capital Riga, Morawiecki said that “only the full withdrawal of migrants and steps towards de-escalation can lead back to any constructive scenario with Lukashenko.”

Earlier in Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, Morawiecki said Poland was ready to contribute financially to repatriation of 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 road junction near Kuznica was closed last week.

Lithuania’s Simonyte stressed that the EU should coordinate all further actions 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 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.

Poland’s Tatar community in the eastern village of Bohoniki on Sunday held a third funeral for a migrant, burying a 37-year-old Yemeni, Mustafa Mouhamad Murshid al-Raimi, who was found on September 19 in the woods with hypothermia.

The European Commission on Sunday filed further charges against Lukashenko.

“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,”

Poland’s border guard says it has registered over 34,000 attempts to illegally cross into Poland this year, including over 17,000 in October and over 6,000 in November so far. Germany has registered a few thousand who have reached its territory from Belarus.

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

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

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