Migrants froze to death on the Polish-Belarusian border
At least five people are believed to have died along the Polish-Belarusian border, where migrants fleeing war, persecution and poverty are pushed out of the European Union.
By Stefan J. Bos
Polish troops stand guard near barbed wire on the fortified border with Belarus. Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, members of the European Union, have each declared a state of emergency. They want to stop a wave of thousands of people trying to cross Belarus.
Brussels accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of using migrants as a weapon to destabilize the EU.
Lukashenko was outraged by the sanctions imposed by the EU for its crackdown on dissent following last year’s controversial presidential elections.
The EU says Belarus invites migrants to come to the country and helps them enter the EU, for example via Poland. However, in recent days, dramatic images have emerged of migrants to freeze to death.
Michael, a Catholic father of three from Sri Lanka, was on the verge of tears as he recalled the icy reception of the Polish border guards. “I asked to call my wife. ‘Please just one call a minute,’ I asked. But they refused,” he recalls. “I pray to God that I will do it [into the EU]. I am catholic. And I did, “he said, his voice shaking.
The migrants say they were illegally expelled from the European Union by Polish border troops.
Kelly and her brother Owen from Nigeria told the BBC that they had been pushed back and forth by Polish and Belarusian forces over the past three weeks.
“They play us like football. First, the Belarusians beat us and pushed us into Poland. Then the Poles caught up with us, beat and pushed us back to Belarus.”
The brothers thought they were going to die. “They threatened us with a gun. There was a time when they fired a bullet. We are afraid, we don’t want them to shoot us.
Megelan, 21, from Cameroon, says it’s hard to survive.
“We are crawling from Belarus under the cables, then as we go inside, maybe if the Polish police see you, they will bring you back.”
However, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has defended his government’s tough positions on migrants who he says enter his country illegally.
He blames Belarus for its difficulties. “There is an organized assault on the Polish border,” said the Prime Minister. But he warned: “We certainly won’t budge. We cannot be blackmailed.”
However, Polish authorities have now banned journalists and aid groups from visiting key areas after reports that several people have already died here in the sometimes freezing temperatures.
This worries Marta Gorczinska, a human rights lawyer. “We don’t know how many more dead there are in the forest,” she explained.
The lawyer added: “Politicians talk about politics.”
However, “What we can see are just people. It’s not politics at all. It’s just people who need help, people who need international protection for not to be sent back to the country where they are in danger “.
Yet, for now, his plea for more compassion remains unanswered.