Poland declares state of emergency as Belarus opens migrant floodgates to EU in hybrid war

Belarus: Lukashenko says UK ‘can choke’ on new sanctions

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The Polish government has formally requested President Andrzej Duda to declare an emergency in two eastern regions amid concerns Belarus’ dictator Alexander Lukashenko is deliberately pushing migrants into the European Union. Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki said: “Lukashenko’s regime decided to push these people onto Polish, Lithuanian and Latvian territory in an effort to destabilise.” Belarus has been accused of conducting a “hybrid war” against Brussels after the country’s relations with the EU worsening since President Lukashenko claimed victory in an election his critics claim was fraudulent.

Mr Morawiecki has accused President Lukashenko of flying migrants into Belarus, from Iraq and Turkey, before “shoving” them into the EU.

“The situation on the border with Belarus is a crisis,” he added.

Poland last week started erecting a barbed-wire fence along its border with Belarus to curb the number of migrants entering.

Under a state of emergency, Polish authorities will have the power to restrict the movement of people, including aid organisations, in border areas.

The measures have not been used for four decades, even at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Restrictions will be in force in 183 municipalities in Podlaskie and Lubelskie provinces, all within a mile or so of the border.

Last month more than 3,000 people, mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan, tried to cross.

Brussels has said the crisis was “not a migration issue but part of the aggression of Lukashenko”.

Top eurocrats say the Belarus leader is aiming to “destabilise” the EU.

Poland’s neighbours Lithuania and Latvia last month declared state of emergencies to help authorities curb the flow of migrants across their borders with Belarus.

The Polish government expects its state of emergency to last for 30 days and will coincide with Russia’s Zapad military exercise in the middle of the month.

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The week-long drill is carried out every four years by Russia and its allies, which this time includes Belarus, Kazakhstan and China.

Latvian interior minister Marija Golubeva has piled pressure on the EU to act on its borders with Belarus.

“Lured by promises of easy access to the EU and the chance to settle in countries such as Germany or Sweden, thousands of people from as far as Iraq boarded planes bound for Minsk, where they were escorted to the borders of these countries,” she wrote on the Politico website.

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“However, it is increasingly clear that this situation is not simply being tolerated by Minsk but has been planned and systematically organised under the guidance of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime.

“Lukashenko’s plan is simple: Overwhelm the reception and asylum systems of the EU with a new stream of irregular migration, and strain our capacity to react to genuine crises.

“This is nothing other than a form of hybrid warfare, exploiting the grey area between peace, crisis and war. And the situation only continues to escalate.”

The Latvian minister added: “It can’t be allowed to continue. The EU must effectively protect its external borders and prevent any illegal border crossing.

“By closely following the migratory and security situation, the EU should develop new tools to deter and act against attempts to instrumentalise illegal migration for political purposes, both now and in the future.”

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