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Germany, Poland Bolster Borders Amid Migrant Surge From Belarus

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Iraqi migrants sit in a military truck after they were caught by border guards and police officers after crossing the Belarusian-Polish border in Hajnowka on October 14.

Poland has announced plans to increase the number of soldiers and guards at its border with Belarus to 10,000 to help stem the flow of illegal migrants the European Union has accused Minsk of facilitating in retaliation for sanctions against Belarus leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

"We are increasing the number of soldiers helping border guards by 2,500. Soon, about 10,000 people will be watching to keep the border tight," Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said in a tweet on October 25.

The announcement comes hours after Germany said it had deployed hundreds of extra police to the Polish frontier to help deal with the recent influx of migrants crossing from Belarus. Warsaw has already declared a state of emergency over the border situation.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper on October 24 that 800 police have already been sent to the region and, “If necessary, I am ready to reinforce this even more."

At the border, police broke up an armed group of some 50 far-right activists attempting to prevent migrants from entering Germany.

The radical far-right group The Third Way (Der III. Weg) had called for members to gather to take action against migrants seeking to cross the border from Poland.

EU and national officials have accused Lukashenka of orchestrating the "weaponization" of migrants in response to Brussels' sanctions on Minsk over a brutal crackdown on dissent since a 2020 presidential election that is widely considered to have been rigged.

Michael Kretschmer, head of Germany’s border state of Saxony, blamed Lukashenka as the instigator of the border crisis, saying, "If we allow ourselves to be blackmailed by such a person, then we as the European Union have no chance.”

German authorities have complained of a flood of illegal migrants through the "Belarus route," estimating that the flow of migrants arriving via Poland and Belarus has spiked to nearly 5,000 illegal entrants in the past three months.

They said most of the undocumented migrants arriving via the "Belarus route" are from Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Iran.

Poland has proposed constructing a $410 million wall on its border with Belarus to keep migrants out after a series of incidents along the border in which large groups of migrants have tried to tear down a razor-wire fence recently put up by Polish forces.

Asked about such a border structure, Seehofer told the newspaper: "It is legitimate for us to protect the external border in such a way that undetected border crossings are prevented."

Seehofer has proposed to his Polish counterpart, Mariusz Kaminski, that the two countries increase joint patrols along the border. Kaminski offered Poland’s "full support."

Seehofer has said Germany had no plans to close the border with Poland.

With reporting by AFP and dpa
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