Poland has completed construction of a new 186-kilometer border wall in an effort to discourage migrants from Belarus.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and top security officials visited the border area on Thursday to mark the completion of a new 5.5-meter high steel wall.
Poland also plans to lift a state of emergency on Friday that has barred journalists and lawmakers from entering the border area.
Morawiecki said the new border wall was part of the country’s struggle against Russia.
“The first sign of the war in Ukraine was… [Belarus President] Alexander Lukashenko’s attack on the Polish border,” he told a news conference.
Warsaw authorities believe that since 2021 Lukashenko’s regime has used migrants as a tool to fuel tensions, with tens of thousands, mostly from Iraqi Kurdistan, trying to enter Poland, Lithuania and Latvia from Belarus.
At least 20 people are known to have died under freezing temperatures between Belarus and Poland in the past year.
‘Double Standards’ vs. ‘Hybrid Warfare’
Human rights groups have accused Poland of double standards by welcoming millions of Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion, while also blocking the entry of mostly Asian refugees through Belarus.
“If you give a refugee at the Ukrainian border a lift, you are a hero. If you do it at the border with Belarus, you are a smuggler and you could go to prison for eight years,” said Natalia Gebert, founder and CEO of Dom Otwarty, a Polish NGO that helps refugees.
A report from Human Rights Watch this month said Poland is “unlawfully, and at times violently, steadfastly pushing migrants and asylum seekers back into Belarus, where they face serious abuses, including assault and rape by border guards and other security forces.”
Amnesty International has also raised serious human rights violations.
Belarus became a new migration route to Europe after Lukashenko encouraged asylum seekers to Minsk to facilitate their entry into the European Union.
Brussels has accused Belarus of waging “hybrid warfare” and seek to destabilize the bloc in retaliation for sanctions against Lukashenko’s regime.
Polish government says Russia is complicithaving regard to Lukashenko’s alliance with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Lukashenko is the executor of the latest attack, but this attack has a sponsor who can be found in Moscow, and this sponsor is President Putin,” Morawiecki said during an emergency debate in the Polish parliament in November.