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Polish Lawmakers Back State Of Emergency Over Belarus Border Crisis

Migrants gathering on the Poland-Belarus border on August 20.
Migrants gathering on the Poland-Belarus border on August 20.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki cited a threat from Russia and Belarus as he secured support from parliament for a state of emergency along the country's border with Belarus on September 6.

Lawmakers' vote to back the state of emergency came as Poland's border authority said it estimated that at least 10,000 migrants from war-affected countries were in Belarus hoping to travel to the European Union.

Polish President Andrzej Duda declared the state of emergency last week but the move, unprecedented in Poland's post-Cold War history, required parliamentary backing.

Two regions bordering Belarus have seen a major influx of migrants from its former Soviet neighbor after similar inflows from Belarus forced Lithuania and Latvia to tighten enforcement against the entry of such travelers.

Most of the migrants are from the Middle East, including Iraq, and Afghanistan.

About 3,000 migrants tried to enter Poland last month from Belarus.

Poland's emergency rules would for 30 days ban demonstrations in a thin strip along the border as well as require people to carry identity documentation.

Poland and the EU believe months of illegal crossings are being orchestrated by strongman leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka to extract revenge for sanctions against his authoritarian rule, in what they have deemed a "weaponization" of migrants.

The EU has imposed several rounds of economic penalties against members of Lukashenka’s government, state-owned companies, as well as tycoons that have benefitted from his rule following his brutal, yearlong crackdown on protesters.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Geneva has expressed concern at the “dire conditions” faced by migrants caught at the EU border, citing “extremely harsh conditions, with limited access to drinking water and food, medical assistance, sanitation facilities, and shelter.”

“Prolonging this unacceptable situation poses a grievous threat to the migrants’ lives and health,” the IOM said, saying such people have been "instrumentalized."

Poland's government has publicly backed sharp limits on immigration.

Poland last month began the construction of a 2.5 meter-tall fence along its 418 kilometer border with Belarus to slow the inflow.

Polish Border Guard commander Major General Tomasz Praga said again on September 6 that Lukashenka has been helping migrants to the border with Poland and its EU neighbors and suggested 10,000 were somehow en route.

He cited hundreds of interventions in recent days to stop such migrants, according to PAP, and said "many say they wanted to join their brother, sister, or family and didn't know that Poland and the border...were still in the way."

With reporting by AP
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