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As Poland chases migrants, locals offer support | Migration Issues

Mirosław Miniszewski, 48, was initially frustrated by a group of tourists strolling through a nearby forest in August, a missing statue in a deserted area near the Belarus border.

He was hungry, thirsty and, although it was the end of the Polish summer, it was cold.

In the days and weeks that followed, the number of people entering Poland via the Belarus border increased by the thousands.

Miniszewski has provided a lot of free time to save the lives of refugees in the middle of the border.

In early September, Poland launched an emergency operation on the Belarusian border. Three kilometers from Belarus, the region includes 115 towns and villages in the province of Podlachia and 68 in Lubelskie.

Journalists and non-governmental organizations will not be able to enter the area under the law, which has banned advertising and providing assistance there.

Thousands of police and border guards were dispatched to the border to ensure that undocumented refugees and refugees could not enter Poland.

People like Miniszewski and others in the community have been doing what they can to address the humanitarian crisis.

“We are in line here and we have taken on the task of providing care. We are replacing NGOs and health workers because no one can enter the area,” Miniszewski said.

“I do not ask questions. When I see someone hungry, I give him something to eat; if he is thirsty, I give him water, and when he is cold, I give him something to sleep on. It’s very simple. ”

‘Beliefs organized by Belarusian authorities’

The crisis that is about to cross the border for several months escalated this week after hundreds of people flocked to the border, trying to enter Poland from Belarus.

Poland and its allies say Belarus is trying to retaliate against Western sanctions imposed by President Alexander Lukashenko’s administration for urging people to approach and cross borders.

Earlier this year, Belarus reduced visa bans for citizens of several countries, including Iraq and Lebanon. Belavia, a state airline, has opened connections to several new destinations.

Tourist organizations offering trips to Belarus have spread throughout the Middle East and Africa, promising cheaper and faster access to Europe. Facebook ads enticed people looking for a better life to spend the money they saved on the trip, which promised to get them to the EU within three days.

“We are looking at what the Belarussian authorities are doing, there is no doubt about it. Belarus has no borders with Syria, Iraq, or African countries, and it is not a tourist destination. We know from various videos available that refugees are being sent to borders by agencies. Belarus security forces, “Witold Jurasz, a security detective and former Polish police in Belarus, told Al Jazeera.

The expert said the final goal of the process depends on whether it was planned in Belarus or Russia, Minsk’s main aide.

As in Minsk, its aim may be to bring the West to the negotiating table with Lukashenko without any merit, which has so far included the release of political prisoners following last year’s brutal destruction of peace demonstrations in the country.

Again, according to Jurasz, in bringing Russia to the war, Lukashenko wants to extend his political life. Without any help from the West, they rely on Russia.

“If Russia is behind it, then attempting an alliance with the NATO alliance or promoting such a border crossing to justify placing Russian troops in Belarus. It has always been Russia’s intention but Lukashenko has long denied it. Now he has no political rights. “said Jurasz.

The development of human problems

Despite the geopolitical situation, the Polish government has been reluctant to provide assistance to people coming from Belarus.

“In 97 percent of cases in the last three months when people sought protection, we called border guards. They filled out documents and pushed people to the Belarussian side,” said Anna Alboth of Minority Rights.

“If such a person or family has already been evicted five or eight times, they know that it doesn’t matter what they say to the guards. Whether they have children or are disabled, they will still be pushed back. ”

A 16-member Kurdish family, including nine children, are still missing in Poland along with thousands of others [Karol Grygoruk/RATS Agency]

According to critics, it is not known how many people are in the middle of the border, with one part Polish guards being sent to Belarus, and on the other hand, Belarusian guards are making sure that they do not re-enter the country.

Just last week, Grupa Granica, a coalition of 14 non-governmental organizations set up to address border issues, met with 1,500 people.

They provide them with hot food, water, warm clothes and sleeping bags, but can work outside in dangerous areas.

“It is cold and some people stay in the woods for weeks because of pushing back. Hypothermia, dehydration, food poisoning are a major problem. “People can die because they drink black water, are dehydrated and have no food,” said Małgorzata Lojkowska, a lawyer and human rights activist.

“There are many expectant mothers, many children. Some people have been injured because they crossed the road. At the same time, I realize that we can reach just a few people in need. ”

At least 10 people have been reported dead, mostly in Poland, but activists and locals believe the forests between Belarus and Poland will soon reveal more bodies.

The Polish government does not plan to devise a way to help the people, believing that power is the only way to fight the Belarussian cause.

A Kurdish refugee boy seeks refuge in Poland [Karol Grygoruk/RATS Agency]

In an emergency, a humanitarian disaster is responded to by the community, such as Miniszewski.

“I do not want to judge the border guards, they have a job to do, and I have my own requirements,” he said.

“People have been affected by this problem, they have been deceived into this trap. I don’t care if they knew where they were going. What do you think it feels like to be in the woods for a few days without food, water and shelter?”

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