Europe

Belarus migrant camp empty, confirms Poland

Published : November 20, 2021 18:06 IST

Many migrants have been relocated by Belarusian authorities to warehouses. Photo: Screenshot from social media video acquired by ReutersPhoto

The migrants at the Polish border have "voluntarily relocated" to a nearby logistics center, Belarusian officials said.

Polish officials confirmed all migrants have left an improvised camp on the Belarusian side of the bordera after days-long standoff. On November 19, Polish police and border guards published drone footage of the now-empty site near the Belarusian town of Bruzgi. "Today the camp near the border crossing of Bruzgi was deserted," the border guard tweeted. "Belarusian services directed the foreigners to a transports and logistics center located several hundred meters (yards) away."

Previously, Belarusian officials said all of the camp residents "voluntarily relocated" to the center due to "deteriorating conditions." In another sign of easing tensions, Iraq said hundreds of Iraqi nationals had been repatriated from Belarus. At the same time, Poland's border guard accused Belarus of trucking in more migrants late on Thursday for another attempt to enter Polish territory.

"At the beginning there were 100 people, but then the Belarusian side brought more people in trucks. Then there were 500 people," said Polish Border Guard spokeswoman Anna Michalska. "People in the largest group ... threw rocks and someone also hurled tear gas at Polish officials. At the same time the Belarusian personnel were using lasers to blind them," she told the AFP news agency.

Poland says Belarusian forces instruct migrants

The standoff between Poland and Belarus intensified last week when thousands of migrants first attempted to breach the border barrier protecting the E.U.'s eastern border. Poland and the E.U. accuse Belarus of luring in migrants from the Middle East, flying them to Belarus, and then organizing their transport to border areas as a "hybrid attack" against the bloc.

Some, including Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, accused Moscow of masterminding the crisis. Speaking to DW, Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski said repatriation flights are "a very positive sign" but that it was too early to east pressure on Belarus. "It is still very serious, we're still facing unprecedented threats," he said, accusing the Belarusian forces of telling the migrants "where to go, how to attack our border guards, how to try to dismantle our border fences." "We unfortunately expect this to continue," he said.

Lukashenko denies responsibility

Both the Kremlin and Belarus' strongman President Alexander Lukashenkodenied any wrongdoing and accused Warsaw of treating the migrants inhumanely by not allowing them to apply for asylum. In an interview with the BBC which was published on November 19, Lukashenko once again dismissed the accusations of orchestrating the crisis.

However, he said it was "absolutely possible" that some members of the Belarusian troops were helping the migrants. "We're Slavs. We have hearts. Our troops know the migrants are going to Germany," Lukashenko told the BBC. "Maybe someone helped them." He added he would not hold or detain migrants at the border "because they are not coming to my country, they're going to yours."

dj/rs (dpa, Reuters, AFP, Interfax)

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