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May 23, 2022



Belarusian totalitarian regime continues to exploit defenseless refugees in its anti-EU hybrid war, bringing 500 to Lithuanian border

10.11.2021 7:11
Refugees at the Belarusian-Polish border - November 2021. (PHOTO:  Facebook - Eliza Kowalczyk)
Refugees at the Belarusian-Polish border - November 2021. (PHOTO: Facebook - Eliza Kowalczyk)

The Lithuanian news portal Delfi reports that the Belarusian totalitarian regime is literally using defenseless Middle Eastern refugees like chess pieces to be sacrificed in the hybrid war it is waging against the European Union - on the night of 8 November, Belarusian soldiers transported about 500 refugees including children from the Belarusian-Polish border to the border with Lithuania. That country has responded by announcing its own state of emergency within a five-kilometer zone at its own border with Belarus, as well as in the camps that exist for migrants on its territory. 

"It was dark, a lot of soldiers arrived on foot. We'd been on the border with Poland since Sunday, near a gas station," one refugee told Delfi. 

"The Belarusian soldiers were there as of Monday at noon, with dogs and weapons. That evening there were even more of them," this refugee reported.

"The [migrants] who were not at the absolute center of the camp were put onto big trucks, including children. Altogether it was 500 people," the refugee described.

"They instructed us to sit down in the vehicles because they would be driving us into Poland. The people were weeping and begging them not to separate them from their family members," the refugee said.

"The Belarusian border guards responded to that by firing warning shots. They put us into the vehicles and drove us somewhere for about an hour," the refugee told the Lithuanian news portal.

At around midnight it turned out that the Belarusian military had driven the refugees to the border with Lithuania near the Belarusian village of Kadysh. The group of about 500 people includes children below the age of 12, women, and young men; the youngest refugee stranded at the Belarusian-Lithuanian border is five months old. 

Reuters reports that Lithuania had already announced on Monday that it would be sending soldiers to its border with Belarus out of concern that there could be a possible influx of migrants there. "We see this situation and the threats that are being created by the Belarusian regime through its coordinated actions on the border with Poland and we are aware that these threats could arise in our country as well," said Lithuanian Interior Minister Agné Bilotaité.

"We see clear parallels. We are doing and we will do all we can to defend our borders," the minister emphasized when submitting her proposal to declare a state of emergency. 

The refugees are currently in a situation without a solution. Belarus will not facilitate their return to Belarusian soil even as Lithuania and Poland are preventing them from entering their territories.

"A Polish patrol caught us and pushed us back. They told us:  'Go back to Belarus'," news server quoted a 28-year-old mother of two who is surviving in the boggy forests near the border, where temperatures are falling to zero degrees Celsius. 

"The Belarusian soldier said: 'No, no, go back to Poland.' When our water ran out, my brother asked the Polish soldiers if we could get some," quoted her as saying.

"We ask them every day, but their answer is always no," the mother said. For its part, the European Commission (EC) has called authoritarian ruler Alexander Lukashenko's practices "gangster-like and inhumane" and has called on Minsk to stop exploiting the migrants for political purposes.

"One component of Lukashenko's inhumane - in fact, gangster-like - approach is that he is lying to people, exploiting them, deceiving them, and bringing them into Belarus with false promises of easy travel from there into the EU," Peter Stano, the spokesperson for the EC, said yesterday, using unusually sharp language. Stano added that the current "irrational" attempt by Minsk is proof that the approach of gradually tightening sanctions on Belarus is, in the EC's view, having an impact, and that Lukashenko "is feeling the pressure". 

The EC has also long been calling on Poland to accept an offer of collaboration from the agency that is responsible for the EU's external border, Frontex, which could aid the country with background checks on the asylum-seekers. Warsaw, however, is rejecting that cooperation and does not want to allow any refugees into the country. 

The situation in Poland's three-kilometer area under a state of emergency on its border, which is being called the "death zone" and cannot be accessed by either health care workers or journalists, is becoming more and more dramatic, as 10 asylum-seekers total have already died there. Humanitarian organizations, including Doctors without Borders, are warning that with the arrival of winter, the border area will continue to see more deaths.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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