For months Poland and other states which neighbor Belarus including Latvia and Lithuania have accused President Victor Lukashenko of intentionally sending thousands of migrants into the EU as political payback for Western sanctions and isolation measures targeting his government in Minsk, forcing these border states to seal off and militarize key crossings.
Poland is now sounding the alarm amid reports that a large caravan of at least hundreds of migrants, believed to mostly be Middle Eastern and Muslim, are currently walking to its eastern border with Belarus. "Belarus wants to cause a major incident, preferably with shots fired and casualties," Deputy Foreign Minister Piotr Wawrzyk has said in fresh statements given to Polish public radio.
Bardzo niepokojące informacje z granicy. Na Białorusi, przy granicy z Polską, zgromadziła się duża grupa migrantów.— Stanisław Żaryn (@StZaryn) November 8, 2021
Ruszyli właśnie w stronę granicy RP. Będą próbowali masowo wkroczyć do Polski. pic.twitter.com/AHexXfsy8a
Lukashenko's government is accused of in some cases literally flying plane loads full of migrants to border towns, after which they are escorted and pushed by state security troops toward border crossings.
Last week Poland's deputy prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski called what Belarus is doing a form of "hybrid warfare" on its border, flooding neighboring EU countries with Muslim migrants. Given that Poland's defense ministry has freshly indicated that over 12,000 soldiers have now been deployed and stand "prepared to defend the Polish border", along with a beefed up police and volunteer guards presence, there are fears of a major incident looming.
This as multiple social media videos over the last days show increasingly aggressive and provocative confrontations. Belarusian agents are accused of prodding people across barbed wire fences where they are met with armed Polish guards on the other side.
Ok, this is the most disturbing border video I’ve seen so far. Lukashenko’s armed thugs dressed like ISIS militants are quite literally pushing women and children over the Polish border fence and forming a human shield to prevent them from returning to Belarus. Please RT! pic.twitter.com/WzvpLmHzhz— Tadeusz Giczan (@TadeuszGiczan) November 7, 2021
The size of the migrant caravans which are allowed to traverse Belarusian highways, most recently near the Bruzhi-Kuznica crossing, have increased...
Grupa migrantów znajduje się obecnie w okolicach Kuźnicy pic.twitter.com/w5VxXp9QqQ— Ministerstwo Obrony Narodowej 🇵🇱 (@MON_GOV_PL) November 8, 2021
Reuters describes a few of the circulating videos as follows:
In one video, people carrying rucksacks and wearing winter clothing are seen walking on the side of a highway with a billboard written in Belarusian.
Another video showed a large group of men and women escorted by armed men in military uniform. The Polish Defense Ministry distributed a video which it said showed a group of migrants near the Bruzhi-Kuznica border crossing.
Belarus has responded to Warsaw's accusations by saying the situation has only escalated due to Poland's "inhumane attitude" and has claimed it seeks to halt any migrant caravans significantly before reaching the border.
Interestingly, Poland will now pursue construction of a large wall in place of what's mostly razor wire fences at this point:
Poland has imposed a state of emergency at the border, put up razor wire, and increased the number of soldiers and guards to stem the flow of migrants crossing from Belarus. Lawmakers have also approved the building of a $407 million wall on its eastern border.
The armed convoy (reportedly, Belarus border committee) escorts migrants at Belarus-🇵🇱 border. People report more and more migrants on the streets of Minsk. They are waiting for the transport to the border. This is true state-backed smuggling, organized by Lukashenka. pic.twitter.com/0L40x3Nhtr— Franak Viačorka (@franakviacorka) November 8, 2021
Polish reports have tallied some 23,000 migrants who have already tried crossing the Polish-Belarusian border since the start of the year; however, it's unclear how many of these have made it into the country. Human rights monitors have noted they are between a rock and a hard place - being pushed across by Belarusian agents amid dangerous conditions, only to be met with a militarized Polish border fence and patrols, as some fresh video appears to show.