Merkel tries to quell migrant crisis on Poland-Belarus border

TORONTO – Many migrants remain in limbo as tensions on the Poland-Belarus border continue, facing freezing temperatures and aggressive behavior by Polish security forces aimed at preventing them from entering the country. .

However, for the several hundred relief migrants that appeared on Wednesday from the Belarusian side as they were escorted from their makeshift camp to a nearby warehouse, where they were provided with food, blankets and care. medical, seen in a video released by Belarus.

This abrupt shift marks a marked shift in attitudes towards government migrants in Minsk, but uncertainty remains for many, including those sheltering in barns. .

“I came here and my life is now saved. I don’t know about the latter,” an Iraqi Kurdish boy named Ahmed told the Associated Press, adding that it was so cold outside that he couldn’t feel his fingers.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel contacted Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Monday, despite not recognizing his regime, and stressed that migrants should be given the opportunity to return to their homeland with help Support from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration. .

It is to be hoped that it is her direct action that has brought about Wednesday’s change of attitude and will launch a de-escalation and a diplomatic solution to migrants and the relationship between the two countries. Warsaw and Minsk.

The warehouse’s warm welcome was a dramatic change from Tuesday’s chaos when migrants hurled stones at Polish forces on the other side of the razor wire fence, leaving 12 people dead. wounded and retaliated with water cannons and tear gas. Poland accused Belarus of instigating the conflict, and Belarus, in turn, denounced Poland’s “violent acts”.

Belarus says 800 people are still camping along the border, a figure in disputed Poland and says close to 2,000.

Some migrants have apparently decided to accept Mrs. Merkel’s offer, with a voluntary repatriation flight scheduled to depart from Belarus on Thursday for Iraq, although it is unclear how many. migrate there. According to the AP news agency, Iraq has urged its citizens to return home.

Most of the migrants have been stranded at the border since November 8, many looking to escape conflict in the Middle East. The West has accused Lukashenko of trafficking in migrants and using them as pawns in an attempt to shoot back sanctions imposed on him and his government.

Sanctions have been imposed on Lukashenko and several other officials following the 2020 election that gave him a sixth term and an incident in May when a passenger plane diverted to Minsk for Belarusian authorities possibly arrest journalist Raman Pratasevich.

Months of massive pro-democracy protests against Lukshenko broke out across Belarus and opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya had to flee after a brutal police crackdown. She has consistently spoken out against Lukashenko, with many Western nations empathizing with her plight.

Lukashenko responded by announcing that he would no longer comply with the deal to stop illegal migration, citing the sanctions as depriving the government of necessary resources to stop migrants crossing Europe over the border. road to the west.

As a result, the flow of migrants has been blocked between the Polish-Belarusian border along with Lithuania and Latvia.

Tensions escalated as Poland deployed thousands of soldiers, border guards and riot police to enforce its borders and prevent migrants from crossing. Russia, a longtime ally of Belarus, has supported Lukashenko and has patrolled the skies and participated in war games in Belarus as a support.

Polish President Andrzej Duda said that Poland would not accept any decision on the border standoff taken without Poland’s participation, referring to talks involving Merkel. and Lukashenko.


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