Poland extends border emergency despite migrant deaths

Published October 1, 2021, 9:05 AM

by Agence-France-Presse

WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s parliament on Thursday approved the extension of a state of emergency along the border with Belarus for 60 days despite EU criticism of migrant deaths on that stretch.

A woman wearing a face mask walks on a street in central Warsaw, Poland, on March 20, 2021. (Xinhua/File)

The plan was backed by 237 conservative and nationalist lawmakers and opposed by 179 deputies. There were 31 abstentions in the vote, which was aired live on television.

Poland has sent thousands of troops to the border, built a razor-wire fence and implemented a state of emergency along the border area that bans journalists and charity workers.

Five migrants have died along the European Union’s eastern border with Belarus in the past two months.

Poland accuses Belarus of deliberately orchestrating the influx of migrants in retaliation against EU sanctions over the Moscow-backed regime’s crackdown on dissent.

Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski had mooted the extension of the state of emergency, saying the migrants crossing over had links with ”radical groups or criminals.”

He said 11,500 people had tried to cross over this year of whom 1,500 were arrested inside the country.

Non-governmental groups have warned of a humanitarian crisis for migrants crossing the border as temperatures begins to dip and have asked for access to provide medical assistance.

They have also accused the government of implementing a pushback policy, preventing the migrants from making asylum claims and forcing them back across the border into Belarus.

European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson on Monday sought ”transparency” from Poland over the migrant deaths.

”I’m very worried about the fact that… people have died there at the border,” she said. ”I think it is really important to investigate and the Polish authorities have said that they will investigate what has happened.

”It is totally unacceptable that people are dying at our external borders… it is important that we have transparency,” she added.