The European Union should take “specific actions” to stop Belarus “pushing” migrants across its border into Polish territory, Poland’s president said on Thursday.
President Andrzej Duda didn’t outline what those actions might be, but said he’s hoping for assistance beyond what the 27-member bloc’s border agency FRONTEX is already providing on the ground.
“I believe and hope that … the European Union will undertake specific actions in order to get Belarusian authorities to change their stance,” Duda said after talks with his Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades in Nicosia.
Thousands of migrants from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa have been lured to Belarus on tourist visas and encouraged to cross into Poland, Lithuania, and to a lesser extent Latvia — all three EU nations that border Belarus.
Several recently died of exhaustion as they tried to reach Poland across an area of forests and swamps.
Duda said the situation along Poland’s border with Belarus is “completely contrary” to international law and accused Belarusian authorities of behaving “irresponsibly.”
Duda said Poland is acting to prevent the situation from morphing into a continent-wide crisis and that EU countries can “rest easy” that Warsaw will protect the bloc’s external borders.
On Wednesday, Belarus’ exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya warned of a “humanitarian catastrophe” which she said is being created by the Belarusian regime facilitating largescale migration into the EU.
Poland has taken a tough approach to securing its border, saying it must defend its national security in the face of a “hybrid war” attack by Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko in retaliation to what officials said was Warsaw’s support for the Belarusian opposition.
On Monday, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, the president of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, called for permission to launch humanitarian corridors in order to control the relocation of refugees and put an end to a chaotic migration happening “at the hands of gangs of smugglers.”
Church authorities have been largely aligned with Poland’s conservative government and the statement appeared to be an unusual reproach of how the state authorities have been handling the migration crisis.
“The right and duty to defend the state borders can be reconciled with bringing help to people who find themselves in dramatic situations,” Gadecki wrote in his appeal.
The archbishop said that the authorities have the duty to detect potential threats from people crossing the country’s borders, but shouldn’t stigmatize newcomers by making harmful generalizations.
He recalled the Christian duty to help migrants and refugees.
He also expressed his gratitude for the help given to Afghans who were evacuated by the Polish authorities as the Taliban seized control of Kabul.