Poland to Extend Control at Belarus Border Amid Migrant Rout
(Bloomberg) -- Poland is seeking to extend limits on free movement at the Belarus border as it expects a migrant crisis that’s prompted concern from U.S. President Joe Biden to drag on for months.
The government is readying rules that would replace a state of emergency in a 3-kilometer (1.9 mile) wide corridor along the 418-kilometer border with Belarus, Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski told broadcaster RMF.
Poland introduced the state of emergency in early September and extended it through November to stem an inflow of mostly Middle Eastern migrants through Belarus. A further extension is barred under the constitution, leading the government to seek legal alternatives that parliament will discuss next week.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau discussed possible responses to the migrant issue during a phone call Saturday, the Polish Foreign Minister said on its website.
Biden said the administration views the border situation as a problem. “We’ve communicated our concern to Russia, and we’ve communicated our concern to Belarus,” he told reporters at the White House on Friday.
Kaminski said Biden’s comments show that the U.S. is ready to act if necessary, though he didn’t elaborate.
Hundreds of migrants stormed a border fence with tree trunks and tools to cut through the barbed wire last week. Poland’s Border Guard said Belarusian troops on Friday night helped migrants destroy makeshift barriers on the border close to Czeremcha, blinding Polish guards with lasers. An attempt to break through the fence was prevented.
Belarusian forces are now assisting a group of about 2,000 migrants at a camp. Asked about Belarusian and Russian military drills near the Polish and Lithuanian border, Kaminski said they are part of a “psychological, hybrid war” and Poland will remain “defensive.”
Media have been barred from the Polish border region, drawing criticism by Poland’s opposition and human rights groups. Kaminski said he’s considering relaxing the ban to allow journalists from the “biggest newsrooms.”
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.