Hundreds of people march in support of refugees as Poland struggles to cope with influx from Belarus


Hundreds of people have demonstrated in the major Polish cities of Warsaw and Krakow to demand better treatment of refugees, many of whom take the “Belarus route” to enter the European Union from the Middle East and elsewhere.

The October 17 rallies came amid moves by the Polish government to introduce strict measures to stem the flow of illegal migrants into the central European nation.

In the capital, Warsaw, demonstrators chanted “stop border torture” as they gathered in front of the Sejm, the lower house of parliament.

Participants in the rally called for an end to deportations and accused the government of using the so-called push-back method along the Polish border with Belarus.

The government finds itself at an impasse as it seeks to stem the flow of migrants into the country and into the EU while responding to rights activists voicing concerns over the treatment of refugees.

Warsaw has declared a state of emergency on the border with Belarus and is erecting a permanent border fence due to the latest crisis there.

EU and national officials have accused Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka of orchestrating “arming” migrants in response to Brussels’ sanctions against Minsk for a brutal crackdown on dissent since a widely regarded 2020 presidential election as having been rigged.

German authorities have complained about an influx of illegal migrants via the “Belarusian route”, believing that the flow of migrants arriving via Poland and Belarus has increased with more than 4,300 illegal entries into the country since August.

They said most of the undocumented migrants arriving via the “Belarus route” came from Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Iran.

Polish soldiers continued work on a 2.5-meter barbed wire border fence that Warsaw wants to permanently fortify the border with Belarus.

Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said the country needed a “strong and high barrier equipped with a surveillance system and motion detectors”.

A government plan for construction which avoids the use of the term “wall” in favor of the terms “barrier” and “barricade” is currently submitted to the Polish parliament for approval.

Poland’s parliament also last week amended a law to allow commanders of local border guard units to deport people who enter the country illegally.

The United Nations Refugee Organization (UNHCR) said the measure violated people’s fundamental right to asylum and contradicted the United Nations Refugee Convention.

With dpa and AP reporting

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