Illegal Immigrants Trying to Cross Polish-Belarusian Border Increased, Officials Say

Lorenz Duchamps
By Lorenz Duchamps
November 18, 2021Europe
Illegal Immigrants Trying to Cross Polish-Belarusian Border Increased, Officials Say
A view from a illegal immigrants' camp shows Polish law enforcement officers, who stand guard behind a fence on the Belarusian-Polish border in the Grodno region, Belarus, on Nov. 17, 2021. (Maxim Guchek/BelTA/Handout via Reuters)

The number of illegal immigrants trying to cross the Polish-Belarusian border in an attempt to enter the European Union has increased, Polish authorities said on Thursday.

Poland’s border guard said on Twitter on Nov. 18 that there had been 501 attempts to cross the border the previous day, with one group consisting of around 500 people. That was an increase from previous days.

The increase came a day after Poland said hundreds of illegal immigrants camped near the border were moved to a nearby warehouse in Belarusian territory, according to Nov. 17 reports. Thousands of others remain on the frontier.

Many of the illegal immigrants, mostly from Iraq, who remain at the border have been barred either from entering Poland or returning to Belarus. A large group of migrants has returned to Iraq on Thursday on a first flight from the Belarusian capital Minsk.

Poland’s ministry of defense has also accused Belarusian forces of leading an attack by illegal immigrants stationed in Dubicze Cerkiewne in the northeast of the country on Wednesday.

The attack led to 12 injuries, including seven Polish police officers, and about 100 arrests after people at the Belarusian side started throwing stones at Polish forces massed on their side of a wire-fenced barrier installed by troops earlier this year. Poland said Belarusians made contact first while also accusing them of damaging the barrier.

Video footage released by Polish authorities showed illegal immigrants using sticks to try to break through the barrier. They also threw bottles and logs across the border fence.

“Belarusian services first made a reconnaissance. Most likely they damaged the fence,” the defense ministry said on social media. “Then, Belarusians forced the migrants to throw stones at Polish soldiers to distract them. An attempt to cross the border took place several hundred meters away.”

European leaders accuse Belarus of mounting “a hybrid attack” by flying in migrants from countries like Syria and Afghanistan and pushing them to cross illegally into EU member Poland. Minsk has repeatedly denied the accusation.

Since the beginning of this year, border guard authorities in Poland recorded over 34,000 attempts by migrants to illegally cross the Polish-Belarusian border. In August, the border guard said illegal border crossings have reached record heights.

NTD Photo
In this photograph released by the Territorial Defence Forces, Polish soldiers and police watch illegal immigrants at the Poland/Belarus border near Kuznica, Poland, on Nov. 12, 2021. (Irek Dorozanski/DWOT/Handout via Reuters)

Lithuania and Latvia, which like Poland are members of NATO and the EU, have also reported a sharp increase in attempts to cross from Belarus since summer.

Meanwhile, Estonian authorities on Wednesday deployed more than 1,600 reserve military units in an unannounced exercise scheduled to start on Nov. 17 while also installing a temporary barrier in border areas that have “previously been used by organized crime to facilitate illegal migration.”

“What is happening in Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia also requires the strengthening of the border infrastructure in Estonia,” said Chief of Police and Border Guard Elmar Vaher.

Reuters contributed to this report.

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.